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Research Recap, February 27: Gravity Law Between Cities, Cycling Behavior, Luxury EV’s

The population size of two cities is a better indicator of movement between them than distance. Photo by Ian Freimuth.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Semi-Urban Residents Cycle More

A Belgian study on the commuting behavior of older adults found that urban residents are more likely to walk daily as a form of transportation, but cycle less than their semi-urban counterparts. Data from nearly 50,000 Flemish older adults, collected between 2004 and 2010, show that satisfaction with public transportation and proximity to services have a significantly positive relationship to all walking and cycling behavior. Predictably, feelings of safety were also associated with higher rates of walking and cycling for transportation and recreation.

Luxury Car Owners More Likely to Buy EV’s

According to a study of over 3,000 British motorists, premium car owners are three times more likely buy electric vehicles than traditional environmentalists. Premium car owners represent one in ten drivers and are largely made up of younger, environmentally-conscious urban families.  If manufacturers and dealers target this group, which the study calls “Affluent Greens,” than the sales of electric cars could quadruple in the short term. The study also adds that as many as 15,500 new electric cars can be realistically expected to be sold to this group if the price of the vehicles drops to between £15,000 and £20,000 (about $24,000 to $32,000).

Roads are Safer for Motorists, but Not for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Three counties in Orlando, Florida have seen a consistent drop in traffic fatalities for the past seven years. The crash and fatality rates per vehicle mile driven have also dropped, according to a study by MetroPlan Orlando. Pedestrians, however account for 30 percent of all road fatalities even though they only make up 3 percent of the accidents. The results are similar for cyclists, proving that the region’s roads remain dangerous for vulnerable road users. The study makes the case for lowering speed limits in urban areas to give cyclists and pedestrians a chance to travel safely.

Population, Not Distance, Influences Inter-City Travel

The distance between two cities is far less important than the population size in the area surrounding them when it comes to attracting movement of people and goods between cities, researchers found. For more than half a century, urban geographers have relied on the gravity law, a statistical formula that measures the “attraction” between two places. The law is based on the assumption that the number of trips between two cities is dependent on population size and distance between cities. But according to researchers from MIT, Northeastern University and Italy’s University of Padua, population size is far more important than distance between two locations.

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