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Concept: Sustainable transport

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Objective To investigate the association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and all cause mortality.Design Prospective population based study. Setting UK Biobank.Participants 263 450 participants (106 674 (52%) women; mean age 52.6), recruited from 22 sites across the UK. The exposure variable was the mode of transport used (walking, cycling, mixed mode v non-active (car or public transport)) to commute to and from work on a typical day.Main outcome measures Incident (fatal and non-fatal) CVD and cancer, and deaths from CVD, cancer, or any causes.Results 2430 participants died (496 were related to CVD and 1126 to cancer) over a median of 5.0 years (interquartile range 4.3-5.5) follow-up. There were 3748 cancer and 1110 CVD events. In maximally adjusted models, commuting by cycle and by mixed mode including cycling were associated with lower risk of all cause mortality (cycling hazard ratio 0.59, 95% confidence interval 0.42 to 0.83, P=0.002; mixed mode cycling 0.76, 0.58 to 1.00, P<0.05), cancer incidence (cycling 0.55, 0.44 to 0.69, P<0.001; mixed mode cycling 0.64, 0.45 to 0.91, P=0.01), and cancer mortality (cycling 0.60, 0.40 to 0.90, P=0.01; mixed mode cycling 0.68, 0.57 to 0.81, P<0.001). Commuting by cycling and walking were associated with a lower risk of CVD incidence (cycling 0.54, 0.33 to 0.88, P=0.01; walking 0.73, 0.54 to 0.99, P=0.04) and CVD mortality (cycling 0.48, 0.25 to 0.92, P=0.03; walking 0.64, 0.45 to 0.91, P=0.01). No statistically significant associations were observed for walking commuting and all cause mortality or cancer outcomes. Mixed mode commuting including walking was not noticeably associated with any of the measured outcomes.Conclusions Cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality. Walking commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD independent of major measured confounding factors. Initiatives to encourage and support active commuting could reduce risk of death and the burden of important chronic conditions.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Statistics, Death, Median, Sustainable transport, Bicycle, Commuting

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The design of suburban communities encourages car dependency and discourages walking, characteristics that have been implicated in the rise of obesity. Walkability measures have been developed to capture these features of urban built environments. Our objective was to examine the individual and combined associations of residential density and the presence of walkable destinations, two of the most commonly used and potentially modifiable components of walkability measures, with transportation, overweight, obesity, and diabetes. We examined associations between a previously published walkability measure and transportation behaviors and health outcomes in Toronto, Canada, a city of 2.6 million people in 2011. Data sources included the Canada census, a transportation survey, a national health survey and a validated administrative diabetes database. We depicted interactions between residential density and the availability of walkable destinations graphically and examined them statistically using general linear modeling. Individuals living in more walkable areas were more than twice as likely to walk, bicycle or use public transit and were significantly less likely to drive or own a vehicle compared with those living in less walkable areas. Individuals in less walkable areas were up to one-third more likely to be obese or to have diabetes. Residential density and the availability of walkable destinations were each significantly associated with transportation and health outcomes. The combination of high levels of both measures was associated with the highest levels of walking or bicycling (p<0.0001) and public transit use (p<0.0026) and the lowest levels of automobile trips (p<0.0001), and diabetes prevalence (p<0.0001). We conclude that both residential density and the availability of walkable destinations are good measures of urban walkability and can be recommended for use by policy-makers, planners and public health officials. In our setting, the combination of both factors provided additional explanatory power.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Childhood obesity, Walking, Automobile, Pedestrian, Sustainable transport, Urban design

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Streetcar or train tracks in urban areas are difficult for bicyclists to negotiate and are a cause of crashes and injuries. This study used mixed methods to identify measures to prevent such crashes, by examining track-related crashes that resulted in injuries to cyclists, and obtaining information from the local transit agency and bike shops.

Concepts: Train, Sustainable transport, Bus, Public transport, Bicycle, Mode of transport, Railroad car, Tram

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Objectives. We compared cycling injury risks of 14 route types and other route infrastructure features. Methods. We recruited 690 city residents injured while cycling in Toronto or Vancouver, Canada. A case-crossover design compared route infrastructure at each injury site to that of a randomly selected control site from the same trip. Results. Of 14 route types, cycle tracks had the lowest risk (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 0.11; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.02, 0.54), about one ninth the risk of the reference: major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure. Risks on major streets were lower without parked cars (adjusted OR = 0.63; 95% CI = 0.41, 0.96) and with bike lanes (adjusted OR = 0.54; 95% CI = 0.29, 1.01). Local streets also had lower risks (adjusted OR = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.31, 0.84). Other infrastructure characteristics were associated with increased risks: streetcar or train tracks (adjusted OR = 3.0; 95% CI = 1.8, 5.1), downhill grades (adjusted OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.7, 3.1), and construction (adjusted OR = 1.9; 95% CI = 1.3, 2.9). Conclusions. The lower risks on quiet streets and with bike-specific infrastructure along busy streets support the route-design approach used in many northern European countries. Transportation infrastructure with lower bicycling injury risks merits public health support to reduce injuries and promote cycling.

Concepts: Injury, Cycling, Physical trauma, Automobile, Sustainable transport, Northern Europe, Bicycle, Segregated cycle facilities

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Few studies have explored the impact of environmental change on walking using controlled comparisons. Even fewer have examined whose behaviour changes and how. In a natural experimental study of new walking and cycling infrastructure, we explored changes in walking, identified groups who changed in similar ways and assessed whether exposure to the infrastructure was associated with trajectories of walking.

Concepts: Ecology, Change, Cultural studies, Sustainable transport

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An estimated three million insect species all walk using variations of the alternating tripod gait [1]. At any one time, these animals hold one stable triangle of legs steady while swinging the opposite triangle forward. Here, we report the discovery that three different flightless desert dung beetles use an additional gallop-like gait, which has never been described in any insect before. Like a bounding hare, the beetles propel their body forward by synchronously stepping with both middle legs and then both front legs. Surprisingly, this peculiar galloping gait delivers lower speeds than the alternating tripod gait. Why these beetles have shifted so radically away from the most widely used walking style on our planet is as yet unknown.

Concepts: Insect, Beetle, Walking, Gait, Locomotion, Sustainable transport, Dung beetle, Scarabaeidae

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Increasing active travel (walking, bicycling, and public transport) is promoted as a key strategy to increase physical activity and reduce the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) globally. Little is known about patterns of active travel or associated cardiovascular health benefits in low- and middle-income countries. This study examines mode and duration of travel to work in rural and urban India and associations between active travel and overweight, hypertension, and diabetes.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Hypertension, Obesity, Cardiovascular disease, Physical exercise, Transport, Walking, Sustainable transport

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Objectives. We assessed changes in transit-associated walking in the United States from 2001 to 2009 and documented their importance to public health. Methods. We examined transit walk times using the National Household Travel Survey, a telephone survey administered by the US Department of Transportation to examine travel behavior in the United States. Results. People are more likely to transit walk if they are from lower income households, are non-White, and live in large urban areas with access to rail systems. Transit walkers in large urban areas with a rail system were 72% more likely to transit walk 30 minutes or more per day than were those without a rail system. From 2001 to 2009, the estimated number of transit walkers rose from 7.5 million to 9.6 million (a 28% increase); those whose transit-associated walking time was 30 minutes or more increased from approximately 2.6 million to 3.4 million (a 31% increase). Conclusions. Transit walking contributes to meeting physical activity recommendations. Study results may contribute to transportation-related health impact assessment studies evaluating the impact of proposed transit systems on physical activity, potentially influencing transportation planning decisions. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print January 17, 2013: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300912).

Concepts: United States, Urban area, Transport, Pedestrian, Sustainable transport, Public transport, Rail transport, Transportation planning

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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).

Concepts: Energy, Obesity, Mass, Body mass index, Cycling, Automobile, Sustainable transport, Park and ride

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Breath biomarkers were used to study uptake of traffic-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from urban bicycling. Breath analysis was selected because it is one of the least invasive methods to assess urban traveler exposure. Research hurdles that were overcome included considering that factors other than on-road exposure can influence concentrations in the body, and absorbed doses during a trip can be small compared to baseline body burdens. Pre-trip, on-road, and post-trip breath concentrations and ambient air concentrations were determined for 26 VOCs for bicyclists traveling on different path types. Statistical analyses of the concentration data identified eight monoaromatic hydrocarbons potentially useful as breath biomarkers to compare differences in body levels brought about by urban travel choices. Breath concentrations of the biomarker compounds were significantly higher than background levels after riding on high-traffic arterial streets and on a path through a high-exposure industrial area, but not after riding on low-traffic local streets or on other off-street paths. Modeled effects of high-traffic streets on ambient concentrations were 100-150% larger than those of low-traffic streets; modeled effects of high-traffic streets on breath concentrations were 40-100% larger than those of low-traffic streets. Similar percentage increases in breath concentrations are expected for bicyclists in other cities.

Concepts: Concentration, Organic chemistry, Cycling, Volatile organic compound, Organic compounds, Volatile, Sustainable transport, Bicycle