Active travel: A mental health solution

A recent study from the Netherlands found that while active travel might not affect body weight, it does have a significant positive impact on a traveler’s mental health. The results from this study suggest that while active travel does not predict BMI, the decrease in BMI levels as a result of healthy eating habits and physical exercise does result in the uptake of active travel. Conversely, an increase in BMI was associated with decreased affinity toward active travel. On the other hand, the researchers observed a strong relationship between active travel and the traveler experiencing positive emotions.

The risk of premature death from transportation noise

The health risks of exposure to transportation noise may not command the same attention as those of exposure to particulate matter or motor vehicle crashes. But it turns out that prolonged exposure to noise is a serious matter, with numerous deleterious health effects—from sleep disruption and behavioral changes, to hearing loss, hypertension, and heart disease. New research focusing on Houston, Texas, attributes nearly as many premature deaths to transportation noise as to motor vehicle crashes, and shows that low-income households are at heightened risk of death from transportation noise exposure.

Exposure to particulate pollution shown to increase COVID-19 death rate

A new paper under review presents evidence that exposure to pollution—including that from motor vehicles—reduces the survival rate of individuals who have contracted COVID-19. Those most at risk of death have underlying diseases which may be due to, or exacerbated by, long-term pollution exposure. This adds to the mounting awareness that disadvantaged communities may disproportionately bear the brunt of the effects of COVID-19.

Cyclists at elevated risk of injury over non-active commuters

From the UK comes more evidence that improving cycling infrastructure has the potential to advance health. A new paper in the BMJ concludes that while commuting by bicycle has more risk of injury than commuting by non-active modes, active commuting offers substantial benefits to health. Lowering the currently elevated risk of injury to cyclists by improving cycling conditions may encourage more people to commute by active modes and improve the health of the overall population as well as reducing emissions.

New report discusses how transportation officials can support health equity

Smart Growth America recently released a new report, The State of Transportation and Health Equity, a field scan looking at the intersection of transportation and health equity in the U.S. today. The report summarizes lessons based on interviews with 92 experts working across disciplines at the local, state, and federal levels across the country. It identifies the biggest challenges to health equity facing our transportation system and strategies to address them. SGA will be hosting a webinar about the report on Thursday, January 23, at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Residential exposure to local traffic emissions associated with higher risk of stroke

A recent study finds that long-term residential exposure to locally emitted black carbon—primarily from traffic exhaust—is associated with higher stroke incidence. BC comprises a significant portion of particulate matter. Although BC is a known health hazard with health effects that are especially pronounced in populations in dense urban areas, the U.S. does not currently include it as a separate criteria pollutant in its National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Does active transportation add to overall physical activity, or substitute for other exercise?

New research investigates whether people who spend more time walking and biking daily to work and errands spend less time exercising overall. The study findings indicate the opposite—the likelihood of recreational exercise is actually higher, rather than lower, for people participating in active travel. In other words, active travel adds to overall daily physical activity, rather than substituting for other exercise.

E-bikes mean longer, more frequent bike trips

On June 18, the Madison, WI, bikesharing system became the first in the U.S. to switch its entire fleet to electric pedal-assist bikes, although other cities have been adding e-bikes to their fleet for several years. Results from a comparison of e-bike vs. standard bike usage show pedal-assist bikes may be the key to increasing bike mode share, especially as part of a city bikesharing program. In addition, recent studies also show that we are still getting plenty of exercise, even when getting help from the electric motor.

Proximity to highways affects long-term school performance

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research extends our knowledge of the effects of attending school near major roadways. Previous studies have found short-term effects on test scores, behavior, and school absences on days of poor air quality, but this new research shows that long-term school performance and test scores can be affected by attending school downwind of highways.

Neighborhood walkability and residential preferences in midsized cities

Many studies have established a significant relationship between walkable neighborhoods and impacts on health and travel behaviors. In the past, most of these studies were based on large metropolitan areas with significant variability in built environment and residential options. A recent study examined relationships between residential preferences, neighborhood walkability, and health implications in a Canadian midsized-city. And, the findings are substantially different from those of similar studies done in large metropolitan areas.