Mackie Research takes ACTIVATION role to boost Auckland’s active travel
“COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to think about different transport and travel options that could benefit people as well as the planet. Walking, biking, and using public transport can offer effective and equitable ways to increase physical activity across the whole population." Image: Hamish Mackie.
Hamish Mackie from Mackie Research has a vision of cities that are safe and easy for walking, biking, and other forms of active transport. Places where people choose and are encouraged to take an active role in getting to the destinations of their daily life, whether getting to work, accessing services and amenities, seeing whānau and friends, or just visiting our public places such as parks and gardens. It’s a vision that sees our population as physically active, socially connected, and allows our older citizens to stay active for longer and age in place supported by family and friends.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just a mindset change that needs to happen, Hamish says many of our neighbourhoods lack the infrastructure to increase active travel and easily improve our health and wellbeing.
“How can we retrofit our existing spaces to serve us better so we can encourage more active modes of travel and reduce car dependence? We don’t really know the best mix of interventions to bring about the type of change we want to see yet. It is one of the reasons for the current ACTIVATION research project which Mackie Research is involved with, which is being led by Professor Karen Witten of Massey University.”
ACTIVATION, Activating Change through InterVentions for Active Travel in our Neighbourhoods, will investigate the impact of transport and community infrastructure on peoples’ health and wellbeing over four years and is funded by the Aging Well and Healthier Lives National Science Challenges. The research has two study locations, Māngere in South Auckland and central Christchurch. In Māngere, the research is aligned with the cross-agency collaboration, Safe & Healthy Streets South Auckland and builds on Te Ara Mua-Future Streets, a longitudinal controlled intervention study that was led by Hamish.
“COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to think about different transport and travel options that could benefit people as well as the planet. Walking, biking, and using public transport can offer effective and equitable ways to increase physical activity across the whole population – but the streetscape has to support this, as well as the social and cultural environments we exist in.”
In Māngere, a community with a high proportion of Pacific and Māori residents, the project will build on an intervention where neighbourhood streets designed for car use have been retro-fitted to prioritise active travel. The project will work with Safe and Healthy Streets South Auckland (SHSSA), a collaboration between housing, transport and community agencies. It will be a unique opportunity to investigate the impact of locally co-designed activities aimed at increasing the connectivity of walking and biking infrastructure on residents’ physical activity, social connection, and safety.
“In Auckland, ACTIVATION is working closely with transport organisations and community groups to progress new ideas for active travel, better understand the barriers, and to evaluate ongoing progress. Mackie Research is leading most of this component,” says Hamish.
“One project involves setting up a trial of e-bikes in Māngere. E-bikes are growing in popularity, and they could be a key part of the electric vehicle revolution, but we need to understand more about how they might be used in lower income communities including cost, safety and security, and infrastructure considerations. Without this knowledge and suitable interventions, the opportunity of e-bikes will continue to favour wealthier communities and lower income communities will miss out. Given that social equity is an important part of the Government’s direction for transport, making sure e-bikes can benefit everyone is important.”
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Date posted: 23 February 2021