Principal Investigator: Brauer, Michael (University of British Columbia)
Co-Investigators: Becker, Jack (Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition); Davidson, Gavin (TransLink); Hancock, Trevor (Ministry of Health Services); Ho, Cheeying (Smart Growth BC); Keller, Peter (University of Victoria); Setton, Eleanor (University of Victoria); Shoveller, Jean (University of British Columbia); Teschke, Kay (University of British Columbia); Winters, Meghan (University of British Columbia).
This project is funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
1. The research question
Most of us do not exercise enough to achieve health benefits. One simple way to increase our physical activity is to cycle as a mode of transportation. Cycling offers great benefits over cars. It makes physical activity a part of our daily routine; increases our fitness; and decreases the risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It does not contribute to air or noise pollution.
Cycling rates in Canadian cities are very low compared to those in European centres. Despite room for growth, Canadian municipalities are struggling to increase ridership. Some cities have sponsored research to understand how to encourage people to cycle more, but none of this research investigates how neighbourhood characteristics and transportation networks are related to cycling.
2. The objective
We will determine what kind of neighbourhood and street is best for cycling. We will compare mapped objective data to people's opinion. This information is needed so that urban planners can design communities that are easy to travel within by bicycle. If we can build our cities so that the healthy transportation choice is also the easy transportation choice, more people will be able to get exercise and achieve the associated health benefits.
3. The approach
We will do our research in the Vancouver region, the third largest urban centre in Canada and one with a climate that favours year-round cycling. Information on characteristics such as population density, hills, distances to shops and workplaces, street types, and bike routes will be linked to information from a survey of 2,000 Vancouver area residents about whether they drive, cycle, walk or use transit for their most common weekly trips. We will measure the effect of the neighbourhood characteristics and transportation networks on the likelihood of a trip being made by bicycle.
4. The unique factor
Most of the research on cyclists to date involves asking people their preferences in terms of cycling conditions. There is very little research on what measured, objective characteristics of the physical environment are favourable to cyclists. No one has looked at this issue in Canadian cities, which have designs and transportation systems that differ from centres in other countries.
5. How the project is relevant to the objectives of the initiative
We will study how the built environment impacts physical activity. We aim to identify features of city designs that encourage and discourage people to bike for transportation purposes - this travel option leaves no ecological footprint and has health benefits.