Background: The role of workplaces in promoting active travel (walking, cycling or using public transport) is relatively unexplored. This study explores the potential for workplaces to reduce employees' driving to work in order to inform the development of workplace interventions for promoting active travel.
Methods: An analysis of a cross-sectional survey was conducted using data from parents/guardians whose children participated in the Central Sydney Walk to School Program in inner-west Sydney, Australia. A total of 888 parents/guardians who were employed and worked outside home were included in this analysis. The role of the workplace in regards to active travel was assessed by asking the respondents' level of agreement to eight statements including workplace encouragement of active travel, flexible working hours, public transport availability, convenient parking, shower and change rooms for employees and whether they lived or worked in a safe place. Self-reported main mode of journey to work and demographic data were collected through a self-administrated survey. Binary logistic regression modelling was used to ascertain independent predictors of driving to work.
Results: Sixty nine per cent of respondents travelled to work by car, and 19% agreed with the statement, "My workplace encourages its employees to go to and from work by public transport, cycling and/or walking (active travel)." The survey respondents with a workplace encouraging active travel to work were significantly less likely to drive to work (49%) than those without this encouragement (73%) with an adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 0.41 (95% CI 0.23-0.73, P = 0.002). Having convenient public transport close to the workplace or home was also an important factor that could discourage employees from driving to work with AOR 0.17 (95% CI 0.09-0.31, P < 0.0001) and AOR 0.50 (95% CI 0.28-0.90, P = 0.02) respectively. In contrast, convenient parking near the workplace significantly increased the likelihood of respondents driving to work (AOR 4.6, 95% CI 2.8-7.4, P < 0.0001).
Conclusions: There is a significant inverse association between the perception of workplace encouragement for active travel and driving to work. Increases in the number of workplaces that encourage their employees to commute to work via active travel could potentially lead to fewer employees driving to work. In order to make active travel more appealing than driving to work, workplace interventions should consider developing supportive workplace policies and environments.