How you move around the city in which you live has an impact on your health and wellbeing. Research has shown that residents in urban communities with good access to amenities and active travel infrastructure, such as biking lanes, accessible and affordable public transport, have an uptick in levels of physical activity.
Professor Karen Witten of Massey University and her research team have sought to investigate this connection of transport and health and wellbeing further with the programme called ACTIVATION.
ACTIVATION (Activating Change through InterVentions for Active Travel in our Neighbourhoods) is a major research initiative jointly funded by two National Science Challenges – Ageing Well and Healthier Lives – to investigate ways of retro-fitting the design of our cities to encourage more active modes of travel and reduce car dependence.
The project will address the impact of transport and community infrastructure on peoples’ health and wellbeing. Sub components of the work are investigating the concept of shared mobility – that is the shared use of a motor vehicle or bicycle – the specific transport needs of Māori and Pasifika elders, and the interagency collaboration required to support active mode uptake through integrated transport and land-use planning.
The project focuses on two urban sites: one on the North Island at Māngere, South Auckland, and the other on the South Island in Christchurch.
About the research
The research will involve residents, including kaumātua, local champions, and service providers, to learn what new interventions fit best with local opportunities and preferences. Once the interventions are implemented, the research team will measure health and community-related impacts using survey and observational research data.
In Māngere, a community with a high proportion of Pacifika and Māori residents, the project will build on a pre-existing intervention where neighbourhood streets designed for car use have been retro-fitted to prioritise active travel. The research team is collaborating with the Māngere Otahuhu Local Board, Auckland Transport, Kāinga Ora and Waka Kotahi, agencies who are continuing to invest in infrastructure and services to improve active travel opportunities for residents in the area.
For the research team, this phase of the project is a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of locally co-designed activities aimed at increasing the connectivity of walking and biking infrastructure on residents’ physical activity, social connection and safety. The team is also supporting a local community organization, Time to Thrive, to conduct and evaluate an ebike trial that is giving residents access to an ebike for two months to explore how it can be integrated into their household travel.
In the Christchurch project, research has focused on new higher density city building developments, and investigating changes in travel practices associated with moving house to higher density central city living. Interviews and surveys with residents and stakeholders will explore the factors that ensure success, such as attitude and behaviour change, and regulatory and institutional requirements.
The research will inform ways in which transport and housing design can be integrated to encourage active mobility in urban regeneration programmes. The uptake and impacts on travel mode used of shared mobility schemes – cars and ebikes – is also being evaluated.
The ACTIVATION Project is currently ongoing and we look forward to the outcome of this collaborative project that has the potential to help all New Zealanders age well.