Transportation

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Walking and bicycling for daily transportation are important ways to get regular physical activity, but such active travel has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. Investing transportation funds in sidewalks, traffic-calming devices, greenways, trails and public transit make it easier for people to walk and bike within their own neighborhoods and to other places they need to go. Designing communities that support active travel also creates recreational opportunities, promotes health and can even lower health care costs. Research that shows how infrastructure improvements promote active travel can help policy-makers, planners and other professionals create healthier communities for residents of all ages.

Download our Transportation-related Resources Sheet for the best evidence available about a variety of transportation-based strategies for promoting physical activity.

You can also view and download our The Role of Transportation in Promoting Physical Activity infographic.

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Is Your Neighborhood Designed to Support Physical Activity? A Brief Streetscape Audit Tool

Date: 
09/03/2015
Description: 

Sallis, J.F., Cain, K.L., Conway, T.L., Gavand, K.A., Millstein, R.A., Geremia, C.M.,et al. (2015). Is Your Neighborhood Designed to Support Physical Activity? A Brief Streetscape Audit Tool. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12(E141), 1-11.

Abstract: 

INTRODUCTION: Macro level built environment factors (eg, street connectivity, walkability) are correlated with physical activity. Less studied but more modifiable microscale elements of the environment (eg, crosswalks) may also affect physical activity, but short audit measures of microscale elements are needed to promote wider use. This study evaluated the relation of a 15-item neighborhood environment audit tool with a full version of the tool to assess neighborhood design on physical activity in 4 age groups. METHODS: From the 120-item Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes (MAPS) measure of street design, sidewalks, and street crossings, we developed the 15-item version (MAPS-Mini) on the basis of associations with physical activity and attribute modifiability. As a sample of a likely walking route, MAPS-Mini was conducted on a 0.25-mile route from participant residences toward the nearest nonresidential destination for children (n = 758), adolescents (n = 897), younger adults (n = 1,655), and older adults (n = 367). Active transportation and leisure physical activity were measured with age-appropriate surveys, and accelerometers provided objective physical activity measures. Mixed-model regressions were conducted for each MAPS item and a total environment score, adjusted for demographics, participant clustering, and macrolevel walkability. RESULTS: Total scores of MAPS-Mini and the 120-item MAPS correlated at r = .85. Total microscale environment scores were significantly related to active transportation in all age groups. Items related to active transport in 3 age groups were presence of sidewalks, curb cuts, street lights, benches, and buffer between street and sidewalk. The total score was related to leisure physical activity and accelerometer measures only in children. CONCLUSION: The MAPS-Mini environment measure is short enough to be practical for use by community groups and planning agencies and is a valid substitute for the full version that is 8 times longer.

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Physical Activity and Food Environment Assessments: Implications for Practice

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

Eyler, A. A., Blanck, H. M., Gittelsohn, J., Karpyn, A., McKenzie, T. L., Partington, S., et al. (2015). Physical Activity and Food Environment Assessments: Implications for Practice. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48(5), 639-645.

Abstract: 

There is growing interest in the use of physical activity and nutrition environmental measures by both researchers and practitioners. Built environment assessment methods and tools range from simple to complex and encompass perceived, observed, and geographic data collection. Even though challenges in tool selection and use may exist for non-researchers, there are opportunities to incorporate these measures into practice. The aims of this paper are to (1) describe examples of built environment assessment methods and tools in the practice context; (2) present case studies that outline successful approaches for the use of built environment assessment tools and data among practitioners; and (3) make recommendations for both research and practice. As part of the Built Environment Assessment Training Think Tank meeting in July 2013, experts who work with community partners gathered to provide input on conceptualizing recommendations for collecting and analyzing built environment data in practice and research. The methods were summarized in terms of perceived environment measures, observational measures, and geographic measures for physical activity and food environment assessment. Challenges are outlined and case study examples of successful use of assessments in practice are described. Built environment assessment tools and measures are important outside the research setting. There is a need for improved collaboration between research and practice in forming partnerships for developing tools, collecting and analyzing data, and using the results to work toward positive environmental changes.

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Technologies to Measure and Modify Physical Activity and Eating Environments

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

King, A. C., Glanz, K., & Patrick, K. (2015). Technologies to Measure and Modify Physical Activity and Eating Environments. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48(5), 630-638.

This paper is part of a special themed section in AJPM, funded by Active Living Research, Healthy Eating Research, and the University of Pennsylvania, highlighting outcomes from a Built Environment and Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute Think Tank meeting on the state of science and practice in environmental assessment.

Abstract: 

CONTEXT: The explosion of technologic advances in information capture and delivery offers unparalleled opportunities to assess and modify built and social environments in ways that can positively impact health behaviors. This paper highlights some potentially transformative current and emerging trends in the technology arena applicable to environmental context-based assessment and intervention relevant to physical activity and dietary behaviors. EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: A team of experts convened in 2013 to discuss the main issues related to technology use in assessing and changing built environments for health behaviors particularly relevant to obesity prevention. Each expert was assigned a specific domain to describe, commensurate with their research and expertise in the field, along with examples of specific applications. This activity was accompanied by selective examination of published literature to cover the main issues and elucidate relevant applications of technologic tools and innovations in this field. EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: Decisions concerning which technology examples to highlight were reached through discussion and consensus-building among the team of experts. Two levels of impact are highlighted: the “me” domain, which primarily targets measurement and intervention activities aimed at individual-level behaviors and their surrounding environments; and the “we” domain, which generally focuses on aggregated data aimed at groups and larger population segments and locales. CONCLUSIONS: The paper ends with a set of challenges and opportunities for significantly advancing the field. Key areas for progress include data collection and expansion, managing technologic considerations, and working across sectors to maximize the population potential of behavioral health technologies.

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Food and Physical Activity Environments: An Energy Balance Approach for Research and Practice

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

Economos, C. D., Hatfield, D. P., King, A. C., Ayala, G. X., & Pentz, M. A. (2015). Food and Physical Activity Environments: An Energy Balance Approach for Research and Practice. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48(5), 620-629.

This paper is part of a special themed section in AJPM, funded by Active Living Research, Healthy Eating Research, and the University of Pennsylvania, highlighting outcomes from a Built Environment and Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute Think Tank meeting on the state of science and practice in environmental assessment.

Abstract: 

Increases in the prevalence of overweight and obesity are a function of chronic, population-level energy imbalance, whereby energy intakes exceed energy expenditures. Although sometimes viewed in isolation, energy intakes and expenditures in fact exist in a dynamic interplay: energy intakes may influence energy expenditures and vice versa. Obesogenic environments that promote positive energy balance play a central role in the obesity epidemic, and reducing obesity prevalence will require re-engineering environments to promote both healthy eating and physical activity. There may be untapped synergies in addressing both sides of the energy balance equation in environmentally focused obesity interventions, yet food/beverage and physical activity environments are often addressed separately. The field needs design, evaluation, and analytic methods that support this approach. This paper provides a rationale for an energy balance approach and reviews and describes research and practitioner work that has taken this approach to obesity prevention at the environmental and policy levels. Future directions in research, practice, and policy include moving obesity prevention toward a systems approach that brings both nutrition and physical activity into interdisciplinary training, funding mechanisms, and clinical and policy recommendations/guidelines.

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Advances in Physical Activity and Nutrition Environment Assessment Tools and Applications: Recommendations

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

Glanz, K., Sallis, J. F., & Saelens, B. E. (2015). Advances in Physical Activity and Nutrition Environment Assessment Tools and Applications: Recommendations. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48(5), 615-619.

This paper is part of a special themed section in AJPM, funded by Active Living Research, Healthy Eating Research, and the University of Pennsylvania, highlighting outcomes from a Built Environment and Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute Think Tank meeting on the state of science and practice in environmental assessment.

Abstract: 

INTRODUCTION: In the past 15 years, researchers, practitioners, and community residents and leaders have become increasingly interested in associations among built environments and physical activity, diet, and obesity. Numerous tools to measure activity and food environments have been developed but vary in quality and usability. Future progress depends on aligning these tools with new communication technology and increasing their utility for planning and policy. METHODS: The Built Environment Assessment Training Institute Think Thank was held in July 2013. Expert participants discussed priorities, gaps, and promising opportunities to advance the science and practice of measuring obesity-related built environments. Participants proposed and voted on recommended future directions in two categories: “big ideas” and additional recommendations. RESULTS: Recommendations for the first “big idea” involve developing new, simplified built environment assessment tools and deploying them through online trainings and easily accessible web-based apps. Future iterations of the tools would link to databases of key locations (e.g., parks, food stores); have built-in scoring and analysis; and provide clear, simple feedback to users. A second “big idea” addresses dissemination of results from built environment assessments and translation into policies including land use and food access planning. Additional recommendations include (1) improving multidisciplinary collaborations; (2) engaging stakeholders across sectors; (3) centralized data resource centers; (4) increased use of emerging technologies to communicate findings; and (5) advocating for expanded funding for measurement development, training, and dissemination. CONCLUSIONS: Implementing these recommendations is likely to improve the quality of built environment measures and expand their use in research and practice.

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Built Environment Assessment and Interventions for Obesity Prevention: Moving the Field Forward

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

Glanz, K., & Davis, E. L. (2015). Built Environment Assessment and Interventions for Obesity Prevention: Moving the Field Forward. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 48(5), 613-614.

This paper is part of a special themed section in AJPM, funded by Active Living Research, Healthy Eating Research, and the University of Pennsylvania, highlighting outcomes from a Built Environment and Assessment Training (BEAT) Institute Think Tank meeting on the state of science and practice in environmental assessment.

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Street Characteristics to Encourage Children to Walk

Date: 
02/01/2015
Description: 

Nasar, J. L., Holloman, C. H., & Abdulkarim, D. (2015). Street Characteristics to Encourage Children to Walk. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 72, 62-70.

Abstract: 

An experiment tested whether physical disorder affected low to moderate income African-American children’s choice of street to walk on and their parents’ choice of a street for them to walk on. The experiment used an innovative desktop simulation in which 32 fourth and fifth grade African-American children and 30 parents viewed and explored pairs of virtual walk-through streets manipulated on disorder (across three contexts and two other street and sidewalk characteristics) and picked from each pair the one to walk on (child) or for the child to walk on (parent). Each participant was asked to report the reasons for the choices. The analysis revealed that children and their parents were more likely to walk (or have the child walk) on streets lower in disorder. Reported reasons for choices confirmed the importance of physical disorder in affecting walking choices. Low-cost improvements in order may make streets more desirable for recreational walking.

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Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes (MAPS)

Date: 
05/01/2015
Description: 

The Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes (MAPS) was developed to collect audit data on the pedestrian environment and walkability in neighborhoods.

Abstract: 

“Microscale” factors of the built environment differ from macro-level design elements such as street connectivity and residential density and include details about streets, sidewalks, intersections, and design characteristics (e.g., road crossing features, presence of trees, bicycle lanes, curbs), as well as characteristics of the social environment (e.g., stray dogs, graffiti, trash). Microscale factors may also influence physical activity but have not been studied as extensively as macro-level factors. Studying microscale factors allows for a more fine-grained examination of the environmental features that enable or inhibit physical activity and may be more cost effectively and easily modified than macro characteristics. Microscale data are typically collected using in-person environmental audits.

There are three versions of the MAPS tool, each with varying degrees of complexity and intended users:

  • MAPS-Full: 120-item audit survey, intended for researcher use
  • MAPS-Abbreviated: 60-item audit survey, intended for researcher and advanced practitioner use
  • MAPS-Mini: 15-item audit survey, intended for practitioner, advocacy, and community member use

 

The MAPS tool and protocols can be found here.

Information specifically on the MAPS-Mini can be found here.

Authors: 
Kelli L. Cain, Rachel A. Millstein, James F. Sallis, Terry L. Conway, Kavita A. Gavand, Lawrence D. Frank, Brian E. Saelens, Carrie M. Geremia, James Chapman, Marc A. Adams, Karen Glanz, Abby C. King
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Costs of School Transportation: Quantifying the Fiscal Impacts of Encouraging Walking and Bicycling for School Travel

Date: 
04/18/2014
Description: 

McDonald, N. C., Steiner, R. L., Palmer, W. M., Bullock, A. N., Sisiopiku, V. P., & Lytle, B. F. (2014). Costs of School Transportation: Quantifying the Fiscal Impacts of Encouraging Walking and Bicycling for School Travel. Transportation. DOI:10.1007/s11116-014-9569-7.

Abstract: 

National governments have provided subsidies for investments in increasing the safety and attractiveness of walking and biking to school. Evaluations of Safe Routes to School initiatives have found that they have been effective at changing behavior and reducing injuries. However, there has been little attention to the impacts of these programs on pupil transportation costs. This analysis assesses the potential economic benefits of Safe Routes to School programs in the US context by estimating the annual costs of using motorized transport for short trips to schools, examining real-world examples of the costs savings of SRTS programs, and evaluating land use impacts on school transportation costs using a simulation analysis of school bus routes. We find that there is potential for school districts and families to reduce transport expenditures through public sector investments in walking and biking infrastructure near schools. We also find that land use context matters and the most cost-effective investments would benefit schools where large numbers of children live within walking distance.

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