Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Can Walking or Biking to Work Really Make a Difference? Compact Development, Observed Commuter Choice and Body Mass Index

Photo taken outside the DC Convention Center.

From email:

"Can Walking or Biking to Work Really Make a Difference? Compact Development, Observed Commuter Choice and Body Mass Index," PLoS One online journal
Promoting active commuting is viewed as one strategy to increase physical activity and improve the energy balance of more sedentary individuals thereby improving health outcomes. However, the potential effectiveness of promotion policies may be seriously undermined by the endogenous choice of commute mode. Policy to promote active commuting will be most effective if it can be demonstrated that 1) those in compact cities do not necessarily have a preference for more physical activity, and 2) that current active commuting is not explained by unobserved characteristics that may be the true source of a lower body mass index (BMI).
Daily time-use diaries are used in combination with geographical characteristics of where respondents live and work to test 1) whether residents of more compact settlements are characterized by higher activity levels; and 2) whether residents of more compact settlements are more likely to bike or walk to work. An endogenous treatment model of active commuting allows testing whether reductions in BMI associated with walking or biking to work are in fact attributable to that activity or are more strongly associated with unobserved characteristics of these active commuters.
The analysis of general activity levels confirms that residents of more compact cities do not expend more energy than residents of more sprawling cities, indicating that those in compact cities do not necessarily have a preference for more physical activity. The endogenous treatment model is consistent with walking or biking to work having an independent effect on BMI, as unobserved factors that contribute to a higher likelihood of active commuting are not associated with lower BMI.
Despite evidence that more compact settlement patterns enable active commuting, only a small share of workers in these areas choose to walk or bike to work. In general, the activity level of residents in more compact cities and residents in more sprawling areas is very similar. But, there is a robust association between active commuting and lower body mass index that is not explained by unobserved attributes or preferences suggests that policies to promote active commuting may be effective. In particular, active commuting has a greater effect on BMI. Consequently, compact settlement appears to be an effective infrastructure for promoting more active lifestyles. The policy challenge is finding ways to ensure that this infrastructure is more widely utilized.
.... which is why I argue for integrating programming, what is called "education" and "encouragement" in the "five E's of active transportation planning, and "equity" as the 6th E in a broader framework, with infrastructure and facilities development in promoting biking and walking as transportation (and for public health).
Bicycle Traffic as a system, diagram, German National Bicycle Plan, 2002-2012

People need help to make the transition from automobility to walking, biking, and/or transit, even in places where the preconditions for active transportation are present.

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At 7:57 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Or, you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

I've spent a small amount of time trying to figure out how to export my bikeshare ride data into my apple health app. The newest phone is smart enough to know when I ride a bike vs walking, but doesn't record the bike ride. So my "active" numbers have fallen quite a bit.

(You see a bit of the gamefication with hybrid/electric cards as well. Hence the Nissan "leaf") although a good study just came out which found it polluted more in this area thanks to coal electricity)

Got to try the google express shopping, which may have a role in car-free life as it can move the heavy/bulk items to automated delivery.

It would be interesting to look at age; as I am sure you have observed for men there is a huge shoot in weight (and BMI) in their 40s --- can an active commute help reduce that?

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck doing this where i work- they'd just laugh at you

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I don't really know about BMI. You read stories in articles about "how I lost so much weight once I started biking."

I've never seen it, but then except when I was doing the Towson thing, most of my average rides are less than 5 miles.

For me it is about "maintenance" more than anything. I don't know what "I should weigh" but between running in high school and biking for the last 25 years I have a lot of weight in my legs. So I think I weigh more than I should for my height.

OTOH, I am "healthy" and with a wee paunch (and to me, fat cheeks). Then again, I don't ride particularly fast, probably 14mph on average.

2. The other thing though, and how do you account for this in research, is the difference between not exercising at all vs. exercising because you bike for transport.

I could join a gym, but it would require both dedicated time to exercise as well as motivation and perseverance to actually do it.

with biking (or walking) for transportation, I don't have to make dedicated time for exercise. Yes, sometimes I don't do things because I don't want to ride there.

But most of the time, I allocate only enough time to get someplace if I bike (transit way too long, don't own a car, a car2go isn't close by, etc.), so I am "forced" to bike.

... and it's not like we are seeing photos of uniformly thin bicyclists in Denmark or the Netherlands.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a lot of those euro people who ride bicycles also smoke cigarettes- which have an impact on weight as well- they tend to make people lose weight for some reason. People will smoke instead of snack I suppose.In other ways the euros are not as healthy as one might think

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Anon at 10:43 totally beat me on the smoking comment having spent time in Denmark, I was amazed how people smoke and ride at the same time.


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