Research Updates from CHATR Lab

The CHATR (Cities, Health and Active Transportation Research) Lab is a research group based at Simon Fraser University in BC. They are interested in how community design impacts the way people get around and connect with each other. Halifax has been part of their research through the ‘Impacts of Bicycle Infrastructure in Mid-Sized Cities‘ (IBIMS) Project. We were fortunate to have Dr. Megan Winters of CHATR join us virtually for a presentation of their research at our AGM in November 2020, focusing on results from Halifax.

As researchers, CHATR wants to remain connected to their partner cities, ensuring the science they work on is of practical use to the communities they study. This unusual and challenging year has been an opportunity to continue to explore how our cities can grow and evolve to be places that support walking and cycling—perhaps all the more important as we all have spent more time staying close to home. We are sharing an update from their research team here on our blog to help spread the word.

The “Impacts of Bicycling Infrastructure in Mid-Sized Cities Study” (IBIMS) remained in gear this year producing several publications featuring the cities of Victoria, Kelowna, and Halifax. More details of their work this year are highlighted below.

Street Reallocations & COVID-19

In the past year, many cities have reallocated street space to support mobility, recreation, and physical distancing in busy areas, as well as bolster recovery for businesses. The CHATR team explored the geographical and socio-demographic patterns associated with these “slow streets” in their study cities (Victoria, Kelowna, Halifax). They found that these temporary street reallocations tended to be implemented in areas with fewer children and visible minority populations. In Victoria, interventions were in areas with lower-income populations and higher proportions of Indigenous people. As cities move toward recovery and resilience, such learnings can be leveraged to create broader and more permanent solutions to support safe and equitable mobility for all. For full details check out their “Room to Move” ArcGIS story map (with interactive mapping tools) and the related publication

Health Economic Assessment

CHATR has shared high-level findings in the past, but now they have published an economic assessment of physical activity-related health benefits. It showed that every $1 a city invests in bicycling infrastructure, corresponds to $2 health-related benefits over a 10-year time span, given a moderate increase in cycling by the population over time. They completed this assessment using the World Health Organization’s, “Health Economic Assessment Toolkit” (HEAT). This toolkit has largely been used in Europe, and now for the IBIMS study (with data from Halifax, Victoria, and Kelowna) puts Canada on the map. The publication includes details of inputs, and how to use the tool.

Cycling Injury and Crowdsourced Data

Only ~20% of all bicycle crashes are reported in official databases, crowdsourced data  have the potential to fill these gaps in official data from insurance, police, and hospital reports. One of their team’s newest publications explored bicycle crashes and injuries reported in the Capital Region (Victoria) through For crashes resulting in injuries requiring medical treatment, the most important factor was the type of object the bicyclist collided with (e.g., animals, train tracks, transient hazards, and left-turning motor vehicles). Their findings support previous research using hospital admissions data that demonstrate how non-motor vehicle crashes can lead to bicyclist injury, and that route characteristics and conditions are factors in bicycling collisions.

Cycling Through the Pandemic

Their latest work underway explores bicycle ridership through the first summer of the pandemic. They looked at bike counter and Strava Metro data—which is now freely available to city governments—from across the Capital Region to understand if, how, and where bicycle ridership changed in 2020. The analysis compares how representative Strava Metro is of ‘everyday’ bicyclists. It also highlights considerations for how data volumes and quality were impacted by a surge in bicycle ridership and corresponding app use in 2020. In Victoria, they found that Strava data are a good proxy for monitoring ridership through the pandemic. They were pleased to see that with the increase in Strava use for tracking cycling trips, the data are becoming more equitable, with increased representation of women and older adults. Their work with Strava data is part of their ongoing analysis to understand how investing in infrastructure impacts mobility patterns.

Fall 2021 Telephone Survey in Victoria, Kelowna, Halifax

CHATR researchers are planning to rollout a third and final phone survey this coming September-October aiming to recruit another 1000 residents in Halifax. They anticipate sharing new results in early 2022.

Study Findings & Presentations Available Online

CHATR keeps a full collection of their study publications, presentations and other knowledge products on their study website for convenient reference. You may also find other interesting resources by the Cities, Health, and Active Transportation Research (CHATR) lab website including those on the themes of transportation infrastructure and equity.

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