Family Activity Study

The Family Activity Study is a longitudinal study with the primary objective of evaluating the influence of bicycle boulevards (also known as Neighborhood Greenways) on the travel behavior and physical activity of families with children. Bike boulevards are local streets designed to encourage walking and bicycling by using traffic calming features.  You can learn more about them here.

Participant families were recruited from within a few blocks of planned boulevard routes or from comparable control routes.  We worked closely with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to identify routes with imminent construction.  We started with 335 households (including at least one adult and one child), and a total of 514 adults and 537 children. Each family participated by collecting GPS and accelerometer data for 5 consecutive days (between summer 2010 and summer 2011), and by completing detailed surveys of physical activity and travel behavior and attitudes.  Most of the families (79%) completed a second full round of data collection two years later (and after the construction of the boulevards).  We collected GPS data on over 38,000 trips, including about 8,500 walking trips and 3,500 bicycling trips.

We have published some of the findings from the study, but more is on its way.

  • This article in Preventive Medicine presented the main findings on changes in adult behavior.  We compared measures of bicycling and walking before and after construction for the treatment and control neighborhoods. With this analysis, we did not detect an increase in physical activity or active transportation among the adults with children living near newly installed bicycle boulevards. We suspect that our post-construction measurement may have been too soon to detect changes.
    Dill, J., N. McNeil, J. Broach, & L. Ma, “Bicycle boulevards and changes in physical activity and active transportation: Findings from a natural experiment,” Preventive Medicine, 69: S74-S78, December 2014.
  • This article in Transportation Research Record took a different approach in the analysis. We used route choice modelling as an input to a mode choice model, and found that the bike boulevards not only draw cyclists from other facilities but also make prospective riders (particularly women) more likely to cycle on a given trip.
    Broach, J, and J. Dill. “Using Predicted Bicyclist and Pedestrian Route Choice to Enhance Mode Choice Models,” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2564: 52-59, 2016
  • That article is based on work from Dr. Broach’s dissertation, which is available here.
  • This blog post looks at some data on girls’ attitudes towards bicycling.

Funding for the Family Activity Study came from the Active Living Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and OTREC, a US DOT university transportation center.