Active Transportation in Urban Areas

Exploring Health Benefits and Risks

National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health

The aim of this document is to provide Canadian policy makers, transportation engineers and urban planners with an overview of the potential health benefits and risks of active transportation in urban areas, based on a review of the academic literature. It is hoped that the information provided will be of value to decision-makers who aim to provide safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation options in urban areas. Active transportation refers to trip-making by non-motorized means. The most common forms of active transport are walking and bicycling, but other types include running, in-line skating or skateboarding. In this document, the terms "pedestrian" and "cyclist" are used to refer to a person who has chosen to walk or cycle for a particular trip or part of a trip. The terms do not preclude the fact that trips may be multi-modal (for example, a person may walk to the bus-stop), nor do they imply that an active transport user does not also use public transport or a motor-vehicle.

Evidence shows that active transportation is more easily sustained than other forms of physical activity or exercise programs. Thus walking and cycling as a means of transportation offers a promising way to address widespread levels of inactivity in the population, which could have a dramatic impact on population health. A transition away from motorized transportation modes and towards active transportation modes may also offer co-benefits such as reduced traffic-related emissions and noise.

Filed in: Health, Promoting Walking and Bicycling

Back to Search Results