Dr. Jessica Schoner: Mutually Reinforcing Relationships Between Bicycling Infrastructure

Jessica Schoner
Jessica Schoner

Congratulations to soon-to-be Dr. Jessica Schoner for successfully defending her dissertation: ‘Mutually Reinforcing Relationships Between Bicycling Infrastructure’ before a standing room only crowd at the University of Minnesota campus on 21 August 2017.



Theory slide. Source: Schoner, J (2017) Mutually Reinforcing Relationships Between Bicycling Infrastructure
Theory slide. Source: Schoner, J (2017) Mutually Reinforcing Relationships Between Bicycling Infrastructure

Researchers have long sought evidence about whether dedicated bicycling infrastructure induces people to cycle, based on a supply-driven assumption that providing infrastructure causes the behavior change. However, supply inducing demand is only one of four theoretical relationships between bicycling and infrastructure. The aims of this research are twofold:

  1. Develop a theoretical framework to identify and evaluate all of the possible relation- ships between bicycling and infrastructure and describe how these factors reinforce one another to shape diffusion of bicycling and infrastructure in cities; and
  2. Develop and execute a research plan to empirically model selected hypotheses within the theoretical framework.

The empirical portion of the dissertation tests the hypotheses that (1) bicycling infrastructure supply induces bicycling demand, and (2) bicycling demand induces additional demand. The research uses a series of cross-sectional tests at multiple points in time as well as lagged variable models to add a layer of temporal precedence to our otherwise cross-sectional understanding of associations between bicycling and infrastructure. The findings show persistent associations between infrastructure and bicycling over time, across geographies, and at both the individual and aggregate level. The association between bicycling and additional bicycling holds over time at the individual household level and for bike share membership. However, the tests failed to find evidence of bike share stations and activity affecting general population cycling rates.
This dissertation provides a roadmap for future research into feedback loops between bicycling and infrastructure. It additionally provides practitioners with guidance on both the strengths and limitations of both infrastructure provision and socially-focused bicycling initiatives.

Like most bicycling research, this dissertation is limited by the quality of data available for both bicycling behavior and infrastructure supply. Neither the data nor the tests performed are rigorous enough to infer causality; instead, the findings add strength and nuance to the existing body of literature.

Papers related to the dissertation are available at:

  • Schoner, Jessica and David Levinson (2014) The Missing Link: Bicycle Infrastructure Networks and Ridership in 74 US Cities. Transportation 41(6) 1187-1204. [doi]
  • Schoner, Jessica, Greg Lindsey, and David Levinson (2016)  Is Bikesharing Contagious? Modeling its effects on System Membership and General Population Cycling.  Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. 2587 pp. 125-132. [doi]
  • Schoner, J., & Lindsey, G. (2015). Differences Between Walking and Bicycling over Time: Implications for Performance Management. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (2519), 116-127. [doi]
  • Schoner, J, Lindsey, G., and Levinson, D. (2014) Factors Associated with the Gender Gap in Bicycling Over Time. Presented at Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting 2015.

The final dissertation will be posted online soon.

As every good dissertation should, it raises as many questions as it answers, and if you are looking for a topic, there are strong research opportunities available to test Hypotheses 2 and 4 on the effect of bicycling demand on infrastructure, and infrastructure momentum. There are also opportunities to examine the new stationless bike sharing systems that are emerging in China (and Australia, and elsewhere) regarding Hypothesis 3 and social diffusion.


Some other bicycling research led by the newly minted Dr. Schoner includes:

The paper from her MS Thesis is available here:

  • Schoner, Jessica, Xinyu (Jason) Cao, and David Levinson (2015) Catalysts And Magnets: Built Environment Effects On Bicycle Commuting. Journal of Transport Geography 47 100–108. [doi]