ACTIVE: an evaluation of cycling and walking infrastructure and encouragement

Model Communities Programme

The Model Communities Programme was funded by NZTA to lift walking and cycling in Hastings and New Plymouth, and potentially provide an exemplar of investment in active travel programmes in New Zealand. The intervention package consisted of $3.71 and $3.57 million respectively to New Plymouth and Hastings District Councils, over the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years, for infrastructural changes (e.g. improved walkways and cycle lanes) and information and education (e.g. campaigns to increase uptake and the confidence of individual cyclists). The cities have different programmes, iWay in Hastings and Let’s Go in New Plymouth, but the similarities mean that they can be evaluated side by side.

ACTIVE study

The ACTIVE (Activating Communities To Improve Vitality and Equality) study examines whether walking and cycling habits, as well as attitudes and perceptions, are changed in Hastings and New Plymouth as a result of the Model Communities Programme. The study is a unique opportunity to examine the effect of a combination of structural and informational strategies on active journeys – cycling and walking.

In addition, Masterton and Whanganui are looked at as matched communities. They share some of the characteristics of the intervention cities, are similar in size and climate to Hastings and New Plymouth, and are interested in increasing active travel, but they did not have central government funding to pursue a high commitment to active travel planning. This allows us to infer causality, e.g., to establish whether any changes seen in Hastings and New Plymouth are due to the intervention programmes or are part of a wider trend (in which case similar changes might be expected in Masterton and Whanganui).


Data was collected in all 4 cities in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Changes observed between baseline and post-intervention in the intervention cities is compared with changes over the same interval in the control cities. This enables us to systematically evaluate outcomes, including any benefits for well-being and safety, of the Hastings and New Plymouth programmes.

Travel behaviours and attitudes are measured by in-person surveys of randomly sampled households in the 4 cities. The behaviours and attitudes of a cohort of households are monitored, providing a measure of individual response to the programme. This is supplemented by data from the Ministry of Transport’s travel survey and from on-road counts of cyclists made by the local councils. This enables us to address the question of how to effectively increase active travel.


Michael Keall, Ralph Chapman, Philippa Howden-Chapman, Jean Beetham, Dylan Muggeridge, Fiona Conlon, Wokje Abrahamse


Keall M, R Chapman, P Howden-Chapman (2016) Increasing active travel to work: Sub-analyses of a quasi-experimental study of an intervention to encourage walking and cycling, (pdf) NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities

Keall M, R Chapman, P Howden-Chapman, K Witten, W Abrahamse, A Woodward (2015) Increasing active travel: Results of a quasi-experimental study of an intervention to encourage walking and cycling, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 69: 1184-1190

Howden-Chapman P, M Keall , F Conlon, R Chapman (2015) Urban interventions: Understanding health co-benefits (pdf), Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Urban Design and Planning, August, 168, 4

Grams M (2015) Active investment: Evaluating the benefits and costs of investing in active travel in the urban New Zealand context, Master of Environmental Studies thesis, Victoria University of Wellington

Abrahamse W (2014) Evaluating the long-term effectiveness of Active a2b 2014 in encouraging walking and cycling to work (pdf), prepared for Greater Wellington Regional Council

Chapman R, P Howden-Chapman, M Keall, K Witten, W Abrahamse, A Woodward, D Muggeridge, J Beetham, M Grams (2014) Increasing active travel: Aims, methods and baseline measures of a quasi-experimental study, BMC Public Health, 14: 935

Article on the work >>

Keall M, E Woodbury (2014) An analysis of changes in mobility and safety of older drivers associated with a specific older driver on-road licensing test: a population study, BMC Public Health, February, 14: 165, doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-165

Fiona Conlon (2013) Getting to school: Factors affecting choice of active travel modes in the trip to school (PDF), Master of Public Health dissertation, University of Otago, Wellington

Woodbury E (2013) Auto-mobile: Disabled drivers in New Zealand, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Otago, Wellington