Her doctoral research focussed on the motives of commuters to use or disregard their bicycles. It is not only the weather that affects the daily decision to cycle or not to cycle, but also intermediate stops between home and place of employment, transportation of materials, being dressed in a suit and working at multiple locations, according to Heinen.
A decision in favour of the bicycle is only partly affected by ‘hard’ issues like cost, distance and household characteristics. These do not explain why people in comparable situations come to different decisions about commuting by bicycle or not.
Heinen states that individual considerations and convictions affect the decision to cycle to a major degree. ‘For instance immediate benefits, (environmental) awareness and safety. Standards in the social environment are important as well.’
‘The attitude of the employer and colleague expectations play a role as well’, according to Heinen. ‘Chances for people to cycle increase when the place of employment possesses an indoor bicycle parking facility or a changing room. Not only due to the facility itself, but also due to the positive attitude this demonstrates towards cycling.’
Heinen emphasises that different groups of cyclists base their decisions on different factors. ‘When promoting cycling these different groups may be motivated in different ways. I have distinguished three possible changes: from non-cyclists to cyclists, from occasional to frequent cyclists and from part-time to full-time cyclists.’
Heinen’s thesis lists a number of possibilities to promote commuting by bicycle. ‘When an employer limits the provisions for other modes of transport, he will promote bicycle use. Employers might therefore take the negative effects on cycling into account when promoting public transport or private cars.’
But in order to change cycling behaviour Heinen feels that not only bicycle-friendly facilities and infrastructure are necessary, but individual convictions and social standards should support cycling as well. A well-respected person may serve as role model and stimulus for others.