Public health perspectives on household travel surveys active travel between 1997 and 2007

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Aug;39(2):113-21. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.04.007.


Background: Active travel is beneficial to public health, but longitudinal population surveillance data on this behavior are limited.

Purpose: This study aims to monitor active travel at different health-enhancing thresholds and to identify trip purposes that contributed to health by using transport survey data.

Methods: The continuous Sydney Greater Metropolitan Area Household Travel Survey (1997-2007) was analyzed in 2009. Each year, approximately 3250 households were randomly sampled (67% average response rate). All trips undertaken for a nominated 24-hour period were recorded for every household member during a face-to-face interview. Trips were coded by mode, purpose, duration, and street distance. The yearly prevalence and temporal change for adults (> or =15 years) were calculated for any walking and cycling (i.e., > or =1 trip per day) and by health-enhancing indicators dependent on trip duration (> or =10 minutes) and amount (i.e., > or =30 minutes/day).

Results: Significant increasing trends were observed for all walking indicators, with a peak in 2005, where 39.2% walked, 24.7% walked > or =1 trip of > or =10 minutes, and 14.3% or 17.8% achieved the recommended 30 minutes a day with or without stipulation on trip duration, respectively. Health-enhancing walking increased in most population subgroups. Cycling prevalence was low (<1.5%) but with significant increasing trends in all indicators and in selected subgroups. Utilitarian cycling trips were of long duration (medians=10-15 minutes) whereas utilitarian walking trips were shorter (medians=5-7 minutes).

Conclusions: Transportation surveys can be used to assess the contribution of active travel to changes in physical activity levels assessed by public health surveillance and to identify subgroups for active travel interventions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bicycling / trends
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Population Surveillance
  • Public Health / trends*
  • Transportation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Travel / trends*
  • Walking / trends*
  • Young Adult