WS 1.6 When the rubber hits the road: Understanding the broader implications of active transportation infrastructure
E. Hagan*1, N. Ferrara (invited)2
1Evidence for Action: Investigator-Initiated Research to Build a Culture of Health, USA, 2City of Oakland, USA
Counting active transportation infrastructure users is insufficient for attributing these investments to broader population health improvement and evaluating equity impacts. In prioritizing resources for active transportation, policymakers also consider factors like integration with existing infrastructure and gentrification implications. This facilitated discussion with a director of research funding program and a local government transportation official will offer insights into the importance of applied research in informing transportation decision-making and highlight critical considerations that should be better incorporated into research designs.
Active transportation programs and infrastructure have been on the rise, with cities rolling out bike share programs, adding bike lanes to repaving projects, and bolstering public transportation infrastructure. These initiatives come with a cost, sometimes at the expense of other city services or individuals who might most benefit from access to new transportation modes. Intervention evaluation has focused primarily on the number of people using the program or infrastructure. What’s missing is a more nuanced understanding of who <i>isn't benefiting, the dynamics at play within local government agencies when deciding how to prioritize resources, and strategies for designing more inclusive transportation initiatives.
Public health has led the way in considering how transportation and the built environment impact health outcomes; but implementation generally relies on non-health departments – public works, transportation, planning, police, etc. – for construction, operation, maintenance, and oversight. It’s imperative to appreciate the dynamics and logistics of coordinating and aligning work across disparate departments with varying priorities. Design and implementation of effective active transportation policies while avoiding common pitfalls such as gentrification or interference with other civic infrastructure requires a holistic approach.
Evidence about what works is invaluable, so it’s critical to identify research designs, methods, and measures best suited for determining direct outcomes and possible unanticipated consequences. Rethinking research approaches and designs to focus on answering questions about issues important to stakeholders beyond active transportation users and identifying and addressing shortcomings in current policies and programs can enhance the reach and impact of active transportation initiatives.
1. Insights into the dynamics among local government departments involved in program implementation;
2. Understanding what measures beyond health outcomes are most important for influencing decision-making about active transportation programs and policies;
3. Rethinking study designs to capture population health impacts and detect unanticipated outcomes of active transportation programs and policies.
Participants will engage in a facilitated discussion with a director of a research funding program and a local government official with experience implementing and evaluating active transportation programs. Presenters will share real-world examples of active transportation projects and work with the audience to identify appropriate research questions, best approaches to answering those questions, and strategies for working with stakeholders and advocating for active transportation.