Controlled before-after intervention study of suburb-wide street changes to increase walking and cycling: Te Ara Mua-Future Streets study design
Macmillan, A.K.; Mackie, H.; Hosking, J.E.; Witten, K.; Smith, M.; Field, A.; Woodward, A.; Hoskins, R.; Stewart, J.; van der Werf, B.; Baas, P.
Bmc Public Health 18(1): 850
ISSN/ISBN: 1471-2458 PMID: 29986679 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5758-1
Achieving a shift from car use to walking, cycling and public transport in cities is a crucial part of healthier, more environmentally sustainable human habitats. Creating supportive active travel environments is an important precursor to this shift. The longevity of urban infrastructure necessitates retrofitting existing suburban neighbourhoods. Previous studies of the effects of street changes have generally relied on natural experiments, have included few outcomes, and have seldom attempted to understand the equity impacts of such interventions. In this paper we describe the design of Te Ara Mua - Future Streets, a mixed-methods, controlled before-after intervention study to assess the effect of retrofitting street changes at the suburb scale on multiple health, social and environmental outcomes. The study has a particular focus on identifying factors that improve walking and cycling to local destinations in low-income neighbourhoods and on reducing social and health inequities experienced by Māori (Indigenous New Zealanders) and Pacific people. Qualitative system dynamics modelling was used to develop a causal theory for the relationships between active travel, and walking and cycling infrastructure. On this basis we selected outcomes of interest. Together with the transport funder, we triangulated best evidence from the literature, transport policy makers, urban design professionals and community knowledge to develop interventions that were contextually and culturally appropriate. Using a combination of direct observation and random sample face to face surveys, we are measuring outcomes in these domains of wellbeing: road-user behaviour, changes to travel mode for short trips, physical activity, air quality, road traffic injuries, greenhouse gas emissions, and perceptions of neighbourhood social connection, safety, and walking and cycling infrastructure . While building on previous natural experiments, Te Ara Mua - Future Streets is unique in testing an intervention designed by the research team, community and transport investors together; including a wide range of objective outcome measures; and having an equity focus. When undertaking integrated intervention studies of this kind, a careful balance is needed between epidemiological imperatives, the constraints of transport funding and implementation and community priorities, while retaining the ability to contribute new evidence for healthy, equitable transport policy. The study was retrospectively registered as a clinical trial on 21 June 2018 in the ISCRTN registry: ISRCTN89845334 http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN89845334.