Improving public health through active transportation: Understanding the influence of urban infrastructure on decisions to travel by bicycle

Cycling offers great benefits as an urban transportation option in terms of public health. It’s free of air and noise pollution, and it incorporates physical activity into people’s daily routines, therefore contributing to increases in fitness, decreases in obesity, and potential declines in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Cycling rates in Canadian cities are very low compared to those in European centres. Despite the room for growth, Canadian municipalities are struggling to accomplish even modest changes in cycling rates. Some cities have sponsored research to understand how to encourage their residents to cycle more, but none have investigated how neighbourhood characteristics and transportation networks are related to cycling rates. Meghan Winters is researching which characteristics influence cycling rates in MetroVancouver. Information about factors such as population density, hills, distances to shops and workplaces, street types and bike routes will be linked to information from more than 2,000 Vancouver area residents about whether they drive, cycle, walk or use transit for their most common weekly trips. She will measure the effect of neighbourhood characteristics and transportation networks on the likelihood of a trip being made by bicycle. By providing evidence on how to build neighbourhoods that are favourable for active transportation, this study will help make the healthy transportation choice an easier choice, thus improving the fitness and health status of the community.