Study commuting to work: motivation to cycle

Foto: Peter Provaznik

Many initiatives around the world are campaigning for an uptake of utilitarian cycling. One of them is the Austrian initiative Radelt zur Arbeit – English: “Bike to Work”. An evaluation study of the Cycle Competence Member AIT – Austrian Institute of Technologies sheds light on the impact of this campaign and provides insights on how a motivating social setting can be an effective tool for changing transportation habits. We offer the study HERE FOR DOWNLOAD.

Österreich radelt zur Arbeit” is an annual nationwide campaign conducted by the Austrian Radlobby with financial support from the Austrian government. It engages employees to form teams of two to four. If a team achieves that every team member cycles to work on at least half of all working days during one month, it is eligible to win rewards in a final prize-lottery. As an additional incentive, random participants are called on each day during the month. If they commuted by bicycle on that day they win a prize. The prizes ranged from bike accessories, like bike locks, drinking bottles or helmets, to travel vouchers. To assess the campaign effectiveness, an evaluation study was conducted in 2015 to shed light on the impact of this campaign and to provide insights on how a motivating social setting can be an effective tool for changing transportation habits.

In 2015, almost 15,000 people participated in Radelt zur Arbeit. Of those, 498 individuals were surveyed in an online questionnaire and with additional nine persons in-depth telephone interviews were conducted.

Positive results: new cyclists


In our evaluation study we found, that 21% of participants previously used their bicycle once a week or less in order to commute to work. More than three quarters of these occasional cyclists reported to have increased their bike use during Radelt zur Arbeit. For them, mainly two patterns emerged: First, cycling to work was done for one month as a way to incorporate fitness activities into daily routines. This was particularly prominent for participants living in rural areas with longer commute distances. Accordingly, health benefits were significantly more important in this group of occasional cyclists. Second, the participation in Radelt zur Arbeit acted as a trigger to discover utilitarian cycling. As one survey respondent put it: “I will extend ‘Bike to Work’ and will continue to bike to my workplace. I realized through this initiative how great it is to bike to my work. I am very enthusiastic and enjoy it every day.”

24% of the participants of “Radelt zur Arbeit” cycled on a weekly basis, the remaining 55%  used to cycle to work on a daily basis even before the campaign. All the regular cyclists mainly changed their daily cycling routine due to weather conditions, i.e. they cycled on days with rainy weather being forecasted even though it they would not do so otherwise. “In our point of view this confirms two core strategies of the campaign:  on on ehand we have 45% of participants, whose cycling behaviour is influenced positively by “Radelt zur Arbeit”. And on the other hand we need the other half of  daily cyclists  as examples and motivators for their colleagues”, confirms campaign manager Alec Hager (Radlobby).

Team spirit, environment and health as motivation


Many of the participating teams included a mix of regular and occasional cyclists creating a motivational social setting. In that line, team spirit was more motivating to occasional cyclists (58%) than to the ones who already cycled a lot (42%) with the latter being more eager to participate as a means of motivating their colleagues to get to work by bike as well (43% compared to 15%). Among all individuals joining Radelt zur Arbeit, 55% mentioned that environmental protection was a motivational aspect and given the seemingly important incentives of prizes, only 36% perceived them as a motivating aspect. This is comparable to the motivational effect of feedback in form of biked distances (36%) and other more individual statistics (33%).

Out of all survey respondent 381 had participated in previous years. Based on their assessment of the long term impact it is estimated that 26% of Radelt zur Arbeit participants – including occasional as well as regular – increased their level of bike commuting in the long run. Although this is in line with previous research findings, future studies will have to verify this effect in a more elaborated manner.

Overall, this evaluation points out the effectiveness of pro-cycling campaigns. By embedding such campaigns in existing social settings such as in workplaces, they cannot only built and strengthen team spirit but can also raise awareness for utilitarian cycling. By doing so, they  can successfully encourage participating employees to increase their level of cycling in a short and in a long term.

You van find the study HERE FOR DOWNLOAD.


Text: Matthias Wunsch, AIT. This study was conducted by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. It is part of the international research project Persuasive Urban Mobility (INFO).

Posted on April 28, 2016