Our neighbourhoods can influence behaviours by creating places where it’s easy to walk. This in turn, on a population level, can increase physical activity. For example, if the design of a neighbourhood supports active modes of travel such as walking or bicycling, more people will feel encouraged to be outside and move about their city. These neighbourhood design elements may be in the form of a separated bike path, curb-cuts on sidewalks at intersections, or even a rapid bus line.

We were provided a unique opportunity to capitalize on a “natural experiment” that yielded a better understanding of what constitutes healthy, mobility-focused community design. The City of Vancouver sought to create an urban environment that prioritized the mobility of pedestrians and cyclists (active transportation) and emphasized the role of place-making (social spaces that encourage community participation and interaction). The Active Streets, Active People (ASAP) study was a before and after study evaluating the impact of a greenway development in downtown Vancouver. ASAP had multiple study arms focusing on different population groups: ASAP-Senior (community-dwelling older adults), ASAP-Junior (children and youth), and ASAP-Foreign Born (foreign‐born older adults in South Vancouver, not part of the natural experiment study design).

ASAP image


ASAP-Sr evaluated the impact of a greenway development in downtown Vancouver on community-dwelling older adults’ mobility and social connections.  ASAP-Sr used a mixed-method approach to measure changes by collecting both quantitative and qualitative data from participants as well as measuring street-level changes in the physical environment along the Comox-Helmcken greenway development.

This research led to many interesting findings related to the built environment, cycling,1 social environment,2 travel behaviours,3 public transit use4 and health. For example, we found that people get similar physical activity on a bus trip as on a walk trip – walking to and from the bus counts!

a young woman helping an elderly woman with groceries


ASAP-Foreign-Born (ASAP-FB)

Older Canadians are more ethnically diverse than the general population, and immigrants comprise one third of the elderly population. Research has consistently shown that foreign‐born older adults residing in Canada are confronted with multiple health‐related challenges, including social isolation and limited access to programs and services. Thus, with older adults as key partners, we aimed to understand the salient health and mobility related issues for foreign‐born older adults who are at risk for social isolation.1,2,3

Working with our community research partners, this study aimed to:

  1. Develop a comprehensive understanding of the health and mobility needs of foreign‐born older adults living in different South Vancouver neighbourhoods (those that promote or inhibit mobility), and to
  2. Identify barriers and facilitators to mobility for older adults who in different South Vancouver neighbourhoods.

All components of the study were offered in Hindi, Punjabi, Cantonese, Mandarin and English.

Elderly Asian Woman