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Environment & Climate Change

Biking or walking to work can put pressure on your peers

Photo © Richard Guy Briggs. Used with permission.

A new study in the American Journal of Health Behavior found if you walk or bike to work, you might be putting some subtle peer pressure on people around you.

Melissa Bopp is an assistant professor at Penn State University. She recently surveyed more than 1,200 people about their commuting habits.

“We discovered that people who had a spouse who actively traveled to work and had a coworker who actively travels to work were much more likely to actively travel to work themselves,” she says.

So, if someone around you puts on tight little bike shorts every morning, you might be more likely to do the same.

Bopp says many factors affect whether people bike or walk to work, but that social influence is pretty strong.

“We did actually find it was a more significant influence than some of those traditional environmental factors like having access to sidewalks, bike lanes, walkable and bike-able communities and things like that,” Bopp says.

She says of course, that infrastructure is still very important, and many of our cities and suburbs were designed for cars.

She says some places, like New York City, are retrofitting to add bike lanes to make it easier for people to get around without a car.