This paper attempts to explain the spatial variation of the use of a bicycle for commuting to work at the level of the 589 municipalities in Belgium. Regression techniques were used and special attention was paid to autocorrelation, heterogeneity and multicollinearity. Spatial lag models were used to correct for the presence of spatial dependence and a disaggregated modelling strategy was adopted for the northern and southern parts of the country. The results show that much of the inter-municipality variation in bicycle use is related to environmental aspects such as the relief, traffic volumes and cycling accidents. Town size, distance travelled and demographic aspects also have some effect. In addition, there are regional differences in the effects of the structural covariates on bicycle use: the impact of variables such as traffic volume and cycling accidents differs substantially between the north and the south of the country. This paper also suggests that high rates of bicycle use in one municipality stimulate cycling in neighbouring municipalities, and hence that a mass effect can be initiated, i.e. more cycle commuting encourages even more commuters in the area to cycle. These findings provide some recommendations for decision-makers wishing to promote a shift from car to bicycle use. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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