Research Recap – January 2008 – September 2008

Research Recap – January 2008 – September 2008


Active transportation and environments and health research have definitely been aflutter with activity in the past 9 months. Two special issues were released in relation to these topics. I will attempt to summarize what are, in my opinion, the most relevant articles. Although this is not way an exhaustive list it is a good indication where research is currently and where things are going.


Special Issue 1: Sponsored by Active Living Research.org
American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2008) Vol. 34, No. 4
“Active Living in Diverse and Disadvantaged Communities”
All articles are available free of charge from Active Living Research

The list provided below contains articles that I feel may be of interest to the active transportation community.
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* Fear of Walking Outdoors: A Multilevel Ecologic Analysis of Crime and Disorder
Caterina G. Roman and Aaron Chalfin

- Comment: The literature has shown unclear relationships between neighborhood and fear to date. The current study demonstrated that levels of fear differ for different ages and gender at the individual level. At the neighborhood level time lived in neighborhood is associated with a decrease in fear. The finding that collective efficacy increases levels of fear is strange. This relationship should be examined further.

* Neighborhood Design and Walking: A Quasi-Experimental Longitudinal Study
Nancy M. Wells and Yizhao Yang

- Comment: There are few quasi-experimental studies published in the active transportation literature. This study uses the natural experiment of people moving from a less walkable to a more walkable neighborhood and the impact on walking. The authors conclude: “Results suggest that neo-traditional neighborhood features alone (e.g., sidewalks, front porches, small set-back distances) may not be enough to affect walking; however, changes in street patterns may play a role.”

* Assessing Perceptions of Environments for Active Living
Jack L. Nasar

Comment: Methods for assessing perceptions of the environment are discussed. This is an important area for active living research. For example, perceptions may explain why people who moved from a less walkable to a more walkable neighborhood did not change levels of walking.
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Special issue 2:
Preventive Medicine (2008) Vol. 46, No. 1

* Active commuting and cardiovascular risk: A meta-analytic review
Mark Hamer, Yoichi Chida

- Comments: Active transportation is good for you! May be particularly good for women. Authors suggest examining potential gender effects of active commuting.

* The relationship between destination proximity, destination mix and physical activity behaviors
Gavin R. McCormack, Billie Giles-Corti, Max Bulsara

- Comments: Interesting findings about what is a walkable distance. Author suggest, “the findings of this study suggest that the proximity and mix of some types of destinations within 400 and 1500 m of people's homes may be more influential than others for supporting different types of physical activity (i.e., behavior-specific).” So is 400-1500 m a walkable distance? I’m not sure that we have the answer to that question and it likely depends on the individual, the situation and destination. For example, we now that low SES individuls and university students tend to use active transportation more than other groups. Why do you think is?

* Evaluation of the implementation of a state government community design policy aimed at
increasing local walking: Design issues and baseline results from RESIDE, Perth Western Australia
Billie Giles-Corti, Matthew Knuiman, Anna Timperio, Kimberly Van Niel, Terri J. Pikora,
Fiona C.L. Bull, Trevor Shilton, Max Bulsara

- Comments: RESIDE is a large research project based on a pedestrian friendly subdivision. Again this is one of the few longitudinal studies examining active living. Many more studies will be published from this project and I am certain that we will gain much knowledge. The authors conclude, “the baseline results underscore the desirability of incorporating behavior and context-specific measures and value of longitudinal designs to enable changes in behavior, attitudes, and urban form to be monitored, while adjusting for baseline residential location preferences.”

* Proportions of students who use various modes of transportation to and from school in a representative population-based sample of children and adolescents, 1999
Roman Pabayo, Lise Gauvin

- Comments: Published by my friend Roman and research supervisor Dr. Lise Gauvin.

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