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Gender differences in recreational and transport cycling: a cross-sectional mixed-methods comparison of cycling patterns, motivators, and constraints

Kristiann C Heesch1*, Shannon Sahlqvist2 and Jan Garrard3

Author Affiliations

1 Queensland University of Technology, Institute of Health & Biomedical Innovation and the School of Public Health and Social Work, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

2 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, Forvie Site, Cambridge, UK

3 School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:106  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-106

Published: 8 September 2012



Gender differences in cycling are well-documented. However, most analyses of gender differences make broad comparisons, with few studies modeling male and female cycling patterns separately for recreational and transport cycling. This modeling is important, in order to improve our efforts to promote cycling to women and men in countries like Australia with low rates of transport cycling. The main aim of this study was to examine gender differences in cycling patterns and in motivators and constraints to cycling, separately for recreational and transport cycling.


Adult members of a Queensland, Australia, community bicycling organization completed an online survey about their cycling patterns; cycling purposes; and personal, social and perceived environmental motivators and constraints (47% response rate). Closed and open-end questions were completed. Using the quantitative data, multivariable linear, logistic and ordinal regression models were used to examine associations between gender and cycling patterns, motivators and constraints. The qualitative data were thematically analyzed to expand upon the quantitative findings.


In this sample of 1862 bicyclists, men were more likely than women to cycle for recreation and for transport, and they cycled for longer. Most transport cycling was for commuting, with men more likely than women to commute by bicycle. Men were more likely to cycle on-road, and women off-road. However, most men and women did not prefer to cycle on-road without designed bicycle lanes, and qualitative data indicated a strong preference by men and women for bicycle-only off-road paths. Both genders reported personal factors (health and enjoyment related) as motivators for cycling, although women were more likely to agree that other personal, social and environmental factors were also motivating. The main constraints for both genders and both cycling purposes were perceived environmental factors related to traffic conditions, motorist aggression and safety. Women, however, reported more constraints, and were more likely to report as constraints other environmental factors and personal factors.


Differences found in men’s and women’s cycling patterns, motivators and constraints should be considered in efforts to promote cycling, particularly in efforts to increase cycling for transport.

Bicycling; Gender; Exercise; Physical activity; Active transport; Health promotion