Bicycling and Public Health in Amsterdam

Introduction

A tourist visiting Amsterdam will notice right away the numerous bicycles filling the avenues and streets. Bikes can be seen at every block, intersection, building, and home; and passengers range from mothers with children to a young man in a suit and tie. The bicycling culture of Amsterdam is unique to their society and proves to be successful in allowing people to get to their destination. Many countries, such as the United States, lack such an integrated bicycling society and rely on cars or other modes of transportation.

Preliminary Questions:

What are the benefits and consequences of having such a prominent bicycling community?

How does bicycling affect the quality of one’s health, how people live, and how people interact with one another?

Definitions and Terms:

Youth of Amsterdam
• Ages ranging from eighteen to twenty-four

Physical health
• Wellbeing of the body of an individual

Social interaction
• How people collaborate with one another as a result from riding bicycles

Mental health
• How people think differently because of riding bicycles

Healthy Environment
• “…one that provides a range of opportunities for its inhabitants to shape the conditions that affect their lives” (Lindheim & Syme, 1983, p. 388).

Research Question

Objective: This study aims to see if Amsterdam’s unique bicycling culture is a factor that contributes to a healthily environment. If so, it is possible that other cities could adopt a similar attitude towards biking, which could become a valuable tool with planning and designing urban environments that contribute to healthy living.

How does Amsterdam’s unique bicycling culture affect the overall health of the city’s youth?


• Do the frequency, duration, and intensity at which the youth living in Amsterdam ride bicycles affect their physical health?
• Does bicycling affect the number of meaningful social contacts of Amsterdam’s youth or their interaction in groups with strong social ties?
• Does bicycling in Amsterdam have an effect on the mental health of the city’s youth?

Methods

In order to gather a large volume of personal information from individuals among Amsterdam’s youth bicyclists, we have decided that a standard questionnaire and/or personal interviews with individuals would be the most effective method of inquiry into this topic.  We would take this questionnaire to high bicycle traffic areas (like bicycle parking areas) and attempt to get young people to quickly respond to them.

Person’s background and how frequently each individual engages themselves with bicycling:

“How old are you?”

“How long/far do you travel by bicycle on average each day?”

“How long/far do you travel by motorized vehicle on average each day?”

“How long/far do you travel on foot on average each day?”

Physical Health

“How many illness-related doctor’s visits have you made in the past year?”

“Have you ever been injured in a bicycle related incident?”

Mental Health

“On days on which you use a bicycle does your mood tend to vary from days on which you do not use a bicycle?  If so, how?”

“Have you ever experienced a strong change in your own mood as a direct result of a bicycle related incident?  If so, what was/were the change(s)?”

Social Health

“Have you ever had a problem with another person as a direct result of a bicycle related incident?”

“Have you ever made a new friend while bicycling or as a direct result of bicycling?”

“Do you frequently bicycle with family/friends?”

“In your opinion, do your bicycle related habits improve or worsen your relationships with friends/family?  If so, how?”

Ethical Issues

Because of the questionnaire format we are using, we should have relatively little problem with ethical issues related to consent.

Our biggest problem in that respect will probably be just getting people to respond to us.  Another useful resource may end up being personal interviews with people within the Gemeentevervoerbedrijf, or GVB, (Amsterdam’s public transit authority) or the Stadsregio Amsterdam, however we have no specific plans for such interviews at this point.

Research Schedule

July

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 Begin Questionnaires @  Amsterdam Bike Ramp by Centraal Station 27 Questionnaires 28 Questionnaires(Vondelpark?) 29 Questionnaires 30 Questionnaires(Flevopark?) 31 (Interviews?)

August

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
1 2Questionnaires 3 Questionnaires(Other locations? 4 Questionnaires 5 Questionnaires(Other Locations?) 6 Questionnaires 7 (Interviews?)
8 9Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 10Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 11Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 12Last-Minute Interviews and Analysis 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
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