Healthy cities reducing cycling stress



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Building habitual cycling into the daily routines of city residents can have an important impact on health and wellbeing, reducing their risk of chronic disease. However, the urban landscape can be intimidating for many people. A number of factors around traffic, safety and infrastructure can influence cycling habits and this is referred to as the Level of Traffic Stress (LTS).

The Prevention Centre provided funding to Dr Afshin Jafari to develop a new LTS calculation methodology under our 2022 seeding grants program for research development. As a PhD student in a Prevention Centre funded project ‘Benchmarking, monitoring, modelling and valuing the healthy liveable city’, he was involved in the development of a simulation modelling platform to identify how the lack of safe and connected infrastructure impacts cycling uptake.

The project created a virtual laboratory allowing policy makers to test and identify potential high impact interventions before implementation. It was achieved with activity-based modelling (transport demand from people traveling to their daily activity locations) and agent-based modelling (groups of virtual people interacting with others and the environment). Afshin extended this model to make it suitable for cycling simulation and used it to test the impact of a city-wide cycling intervention in Greater Melbourne.

The seed funding helped him, and research assistant Steve Pemberton, provide proof-of-concept for a tool to assess the potential of new cycling infrastructure with scenarios that involved reducing speed limits on residential streets.

The research produced under this grant has created a robust groundwork for future grant applications and partnerships. It has already led to a significant collaboration with the Global Healthy and Sustainable City Indicators Collaboration, reinforcing the enduring impact of this funding.

Dr Afshin Jafari

The project’s LTS calculation methodology is supporting the formulation of a bicycle infrastructure accessibility measure being developed with international researchers as part of the Global Observatory of Sustainable Cities cycling working group.

This research will help inform cycling infrastructure planning, policy making and investment decisions aimed at increasing cycling. The project provides important insights to help identify locations where safe cycling infrastructure could be introduced to maximise the adoption of cycling.