New walking and cycling routes and increased physical activity: one- and 2-year findings from the UK iConnect Study

Anna Goodman, Shannon Sahlqvist, David Ogilvie
American Journal of Public Health 2014, 104 (9): e38-46

OBJECTIVES: We evaluated the effects of providing new high-quality, traffic-free routes for walking and cycling on overall levels of walking, cycling, and physical activity.

METHODS: 1796 adult residents in 3 UK municipalities completed postal questionnaires at baseline (2010) and 1-year follow-up (2011), after the construction of the new infrastructure. 1465 adults completed questionnaires at baseline and 2-year follow-up (2012). Transport network distance from home to infrastructure defined intervention exposure and provided a basis for controlled comparisons.

RESULTS: Living nearer the infrastructure did not predict changes in activity levels at 1-year follow-up but did predict increases in activity at 2 years relative to those living farther away (15.3 additional minutes/week walking and cycling per km nearer; 12.5 additional minutes/week of total physical activity). The effects were larger among participants with no car.

CONCLUSIONS: These new local routes may mainly have displaced walking or cycling trips in the short term but generated new trips in the longer term, particularly among those unable to access more distant destinations by car. These findings support the potential for walking and cycling infrastructure to promote physical activity.

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