The iConnect study aimed to measure and evaluate the changes in travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to Sustrans’ Connect2 programme, which was an ambitious UK-wide project that transformed local travel in more than 80 communities by creating new crossings and bridges to overcome barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railways, giving people easier and healthier access to their schools, shops, parks and countryside.
The five-year iConnect study (2008-2013) involved a broad evaluation of the whole programme coupled with detailed investigations at five specific sites. the study sought to determine if the new routes have got more people switching from using their cars to walking or cycling, helping them to get more physically active and reducing their carbon footprint.
The core project team comprised nine investigators based in nine institutions around the UK and representing a unique range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise across the fields of transport, energy and carbon, environmental sciences, civil engineering, computer science, urban modelling, physical activity, public health, and health and transport economics.
Following a randomised controlled trial of alternative survey protocols the Unit and CEDAR led the evaluation of the core study sites at Cardiff, Kenilworth and Southampton in which three annual waves of population survey data (2010-2012; baseline n=3516) were complemented by in-depth case studies and qualitative interviews with stakeholders and participants.
The Unit led a secondary school intervention study at a fourth Connect2 site in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, where a new footbridge across a main road and an associated traffic-free walking and cycling route were constructed to create a link to a newly relocated secondary school. We also collaborated on the development of a randomised controlled trial of the additional effect of promotional activities at a fifth site in Glasgow.