The effectiveness of active travel initiatives in Irish provincial towns: an evaluation of a quasi-experimental natural experiment

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Ireland is a car dependent country with low levels of active travel and also low levels of total physical activity. There is a paucity of studies, internationally, that have evaluated active travel initiatives in a real world setting. This thesis contributes new knowledge to the evidence base on the implementation, effectiveness and design of active travel initiatives at the community level and their impact on physical activity. This thesis is comprised of a series of quasi-experimental designed intervention studies that adopted a mixed methods approach to assess the impact of community-wide active travel initiatives (funded demonstration projects) in two Irish towns from 2011 to 2013. The review of literature critically analyses the correlates and determinants of active travel in both school-children and adults. The impact of the active travel initiatives is described across four studies. Two of these studies describe the impact of the community-wide intervention on primary and secondary school-children using a repeat cross-sectional design and self-report surveys. This research design was also utilised to evaluate the impact of an intensive multi-component active travel intervention in one all-girls school (the third impact study). Qualitative data were also collected as part of a process evaluation to help explain the intervention effect. The fourth impact study was a cohort study with adults using self-report surveys. The final study in the thesis was a qualitative study that examined the processes and mechanisms that shaped the implementation of active travel policy in both towns. There was no overall intervention effect detected for active travel behaviour in school-children or adults. Community-wide changes in active travel and physical activity are unachievable without significant investment and a high intensity mix of hard (community and infrastructural design) and soft (pricing, programming and policy) measures that target the entire population and specific stakeholder groups.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Murphy, Niamh, Supervisor
  • Bauman, Adrian, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Physical activity


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