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We are a laboratory for exercise and sports based in Brussels.

Commuter cycling & Health

International groups including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have recommended policy changes to combat physical inactivity, pollution, climate change, sustainable development, and traffic injuries. Despite the well-established health benefits associated with regular physical activity, many young people do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity. Physically active commuting to work (PACW) and school (PACS) has important health implications, because it holds the potential of being physically active on a regular basis. As a consequence PACW and PACS can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hypertension, which are among the leading causes of death and disease.

In a previous research project (Fietsen naar het werk), we looked at the effect of cycling to work on physical performance and mental well being. During these projects, sedentary subjects were asked to cycle to work on conventional bicycles and e-bikes. These intervention studies added valuable scientific data showing that sedentary people can increase their physical performance if they cycle to work on a regular basis. The intensity of cycling on a e-bike also seems high enough to increase physical performance.

The SHAPES project is an interdisciplinary project, that assessed the risks and benefits of commuter cycling in cities, compared to commuting by car. The SHAPES project is at the crossroads of health, transport and air pollution research. Its main aim was to provide information to policy makers in these domains to facilitate the implementation of intersectoral policies. Different hypotheses were studied: a better general air quality but risk of increased exposure to air pollution when cycling; the benefit of a better overall physical condition of the population, thus reducing the health risks from a sedentary lifestyle, but increased risks for injuries resulting from the physical effort; higher personal accident risks but increased general traffic safety.

Current research (GO-SAFE!) looks at the interaction between the built environment and bicycle accidents in an adolescent study populations. Adolescents, cycling to school will be asked to report past and future bicycle accidents while cycling for transportation. Detailed information about the built environment will be collected in order to define which characteristics of the built environment are important in the onset of bicycle accidents.

Author: Bas de Geus

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