Nature and cycling in the West of England

A UWE Bristol PhD project.

Project details

Full project title: Nature and cycling in the West of England: A UWE Bristol PhD project

Sponsor: UWE Bristol Studentship

Research student: Mel Cairns

Supervisory team:

Start date: 1 October 2022

End date: 30 September 2025

Project summary

Cycling and nature connectedness are both linked with benefits for individuals, such as health and wellbeing, and for society and the natural world, such as reduced air pollution and carbon emissions. This PhD project is concerned with the role of nature in cycling experiences and the extent to which nature influences cycling activities. The student’s previous research suggests that nature can be an important aspect for some cyclists and not others, and that nature connectedness pathway processes may be experienced while cycling. The current project seeks to explore, in greater depth, which cyclists feel nature plays an important role in their rides, what types of rides and under which conditions. The project also asks how nature influences cycling activities and decisions such as route choices, and explores the concept of nature connectedness in relation to cycling practices. 

The first phase of this PhD research comprised an international literature review, finding that there are several ways in which nature has been found to influence cycling experiences positively, such as by enhancing the enjoyableness, satisfaction and sense of wellbeing on rides, mitigating negative effects including traffic, noise and perceived effort, and facilitating desirable states or experiences like overcoming challenges or feeling a sense of escape. Literature assessing associations between natural factors and cycling outcomes was found to have more mixed findings, which appears to be at least partially a result of heterogeneous measurement approaches, some of which were less optimal for the study of cycling, as well as to geographical variation in local cultural and regulatory contexts for cycling across the study areas.

In light of these findings, a mixed methods research design is being implemented in the West of England area in order to build on the findings of previous research while addressing its limitations and focusing explicitly on the ways in which nature plays a part in cycling practices. Findings are due to be shared with relevant local stakeholders at a workshop in 2024/25. 


Interested parties can contact the researcher, Mel Cairns (