Neighbourhood, Route and Workplace-Related Environmental Characteristics Predict Adults' Mode of Travel to Work

Alice M Dalton, Andrew P Jones, Jenna R Panter, David Ogilvie
PloS One 2013, 8 (6): e67575

OBJECTIVE: Commuting provides opportunities for regular physical activity which can reduce the risk of chronic disease. Commuters' mode of travel may be shaped by their environment, but understanding of which specific environmental characteristics are most important and might form targets for intervention is limited. This study investigated associations between mode choice and a range of objectively assessed environmental characteristics.

METHODS: Participants in the Commuting and Health in Cambridge study reported where they lived and worked, their usual mode of travel to work and a variety of socio-demographic characteristics. Using geographic information system (GIS) software, 30 exposure variables were produced capturing characteristics of areas around participants' homes and workplaces and their shortest modelled routes to work. Associations between usual mode of travel to work and personal and environmental characteristics were investigated using multinomial logistic regression.

RESULTS: Of the 1124 respondents, 50% reported cycling or walking as their usual mode of travel to work. In adjusted analyses, home-work distance was strongly associated with mode choice, particularly for walking. Lower odds of walking or cycling rather than driving were associated with a less frequent bus service (highest versus lowest tertile: walking OR 0.61 [95% CI 0.20-1.85]; cycling OR 0.43 [95% CI 0.23-0.83]), low street connectivity (OR 0.22, [0.07-0.67]; OR 0.48 [0.26-0.90]) and free car parking at work (OR 0.24 [0.10-0.59]; OR 0.55 [0.32-0.95]). Participants were less likely to cycle if they had access to fewer destinations (leisure facilities, shops and schools) close to work (OR 0.36 [0.21-0.62]) and a railway station further from home (OR 0.53 [0.30-0.93]). Covariates strongly predicted travel mode (pseudo r-squared 0.74).

CONCLUSIONS: Potentially modifiable environmental characteristics, including workplace car parking, street connectivity and access to public transport, are associated with travel mode choice, and could be addressed as part of transport policy and infrastructural interventions to promote active commuting.

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