Multi-component workplace supports for active commuting

Active commuting involves some form of physical exercise such as walking or bicycling as a way to travel to and from work. Multi-component workplace supports for active commuting can include physical infrastructure (e.g., bicycle parking or cyclist showers), educational or social support programs (e.g., workplace travel plans, transportation coordinators, walking groups, or walk/bike to work campaigns), or financial incentives (e.g., free bicycle parking, bicycle commuting reimbursements, or fees for car parking) (BTWD-Guidelines).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased active transportation

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased physical activity

  • Improved physical fitness

  • Improved health outcomes

  • Reduced vehicle miles traveled

  • Reduced emissions

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that multi-component workplace supports increase active commuting (Ogilvie 2004, , Goodman 2013, ). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects and determine which elements are most effective (, ).

Active commuting increases physical activity, improves physical fitness, and improves health outcomes (, , ). Commuter cycling has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality and improve cardiovascular fitness for middle-aged and elderly adults (). Active commuting also reduces cardiovascular risk, especially among women (). In some cases, bicyclists and pedestrians can achieve greater than 80% of recommended daily physical activity levels through active commuting (, ). Among regular active commuters, walkers are more likely to be female, and bicyclists are more likely to be male ().

Individual, interpersonal, community, environmental, and institutional (e.g., workplace) factors all influence active commuting decisions. Workplace supports can be tailored to fit small and large employers (). Workplace travel plans that restrict car parking options can increase the number of employees bicycling and walking to work (). Organizational travel plans (OTPs) in workplaces and schools may reduce car use, however, OTPs are more likely to be effective if they include environmental changes such as bicycling infrastructure or enhanced local walkability (). Efforts that combine infrastructure improvements and promotional or educational efforts can increase cycling to workplaces and other destinations (Goodman 2013).

Multi-component workplace supports that provide bicycle parking and cyclist showers are associated with increased bicycle commuting (). Supports that limit or charge for car parking, offer free off-site parking, and supportive work environments are also associated with increased active commuting (Panter 2013). Workplace supports such as access to bike storage, incentives to bike/walk to work, showers, and maps or signs of nearby walking routes are associated with increased odds of meeting recommended daily physical activity levels (ALR-Hipp 2015).

Replacing automotive trips with biking and walking can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and emissions at relatively low cost, although the long-term effect on traffic reduction is likely minor (RAND-Sorenson 2008, ). Transportation policies and supports for active commuting that reduce car trips may also reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (, ).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Nationally, the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) runs the Bicycle Friendly America (BFA) program that provides assistance, tools, and recognition for states, communities, universities, and businesses that support bicycling for transportation and recreation (LAB-BFA). The Bicycle Friendly Business program component of BFA recognizes employers that implement multi-component workplace supports for active commuting as ’bicycle friendly businesses;’ these businesses are located in 47 states (LAB-BFA awards). 

Many other non-profit organizations also provide resources designed to help employers in their area implement multi-component supports for active commuting, for example in Washington, DC (Commuter Connections-Bicycling Washington DC); San Francisco, CA (SF Bike-BB); and Baltimore, MD (BMC-Employer guide).

Implementation Resources

Commuter Connections-Support bicycling - Commuter Connections. Supporting bicycling.

BTWD-Guidelines - Bike to Work Day (BTWD). Become a bicycle friendly workplace.

CDC-Transportation HIA toolkit - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transportation health impact assessment toolkit: Strategies for health-oriented transportation projects and policies promote active transportation.

Thurston County-WorkWell toolkit 2008 - Thurston County Washington, Steps to a Healthier WA. WorkWell Thurston County: Healthy workplace toolkit. 2008.

LaCrosse-Active commuting toolkit - City of LaCrosse Wisconsin, Get Active, Communities Putting Prevention to Work. Active commuting toolkit: Making the healthy choice the easy choice.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

RAND-Sorenson 2008 - Sorenson P, Wachs M, Min EY, et al. Moving Los Angeles: Short-term policy options for improving transportation. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2008: Monograph Report 748.

Salon 2012* - Salon D, Boarnet MG, Handy S, Spears S, Tal G. How do local actions affect VMT? A critical review of the empirical evidence. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. 2012;17(7):495–508.

Ogilvie 2004 - Ogilvie D, Egan M, Hamilton V, Petticrew M. Promoting walking and cycling as an alternative to using cars: Systematic review. BMJ. 2004;329(7469):763.

Brockman 2011* - Brockman R, Fox KR. Physical activity by stealth? The potential health benefits of a workplace transport plan. Public Health. 2011;125(4):210–6.

Goodman 2013 - Goodman A, Panter J, Sharp SJ, Ogilvie D. Effectiveness and equity impacts of town-wide cycling initiatives in England: A longitudinal, controlled natural experimental study. Social Science & Medicine. 2013;97:228–37.

Macmillan 2013* - Macmillan AK, Hosking J, Connor JL, Bullen C, Ameratunga S. A Cochrane systematic review of the effectiveness of organisational travel plans: Improving the evidence base for transport decisions. Transport Policy. 2013;29:249–56.

Oja 2011* - Oja P, Titze S, Bauman A, de Geus B, Reger-Nash B, Kohlberger T. Health benefits of cycling: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2011;21(4):496–509.

Hamer 2008* - Hamer M, Chida Y. Active commuting and cardiovascular risk: A meta-analytic review. Preventive Medicine. 2008;46(1):9–13.

Shephard 2008* - Shephard RJ. Is active commuting the answer to population health? Sports Medicine. 2008;38(9):751–8.

Freeland 2012* - Freeland AL, Banerjee SN, Dannenberg AL, Wendel AM. Walking associated with public transit: Moving toward increased physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(3):536–42.

Buehler 2012* - Buehler R. Determinants of bicycle commuting in the Washington, DC region: The role of bicycle parking, cyclist showers, and free car parking at work. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. 2012;17(7):525–31.

Panter 2013 - Panter J, Desousa C, Ogilvie D. Incorporating walking or cycling into car journeys to and from work: The role of individual, workplace and environmental characteristics. Preventive Medicine. 2013;56(3-4):211–7.

Lindsay 2010* - Lindsay G, Macmillan A, Woodward A. Moving urban trips from cars to bicycles: Impact on health and emissions. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2011;35(1):54–60.

Scheepers 2014* - Scheepers CE, Wendel-Vos GCW, den Broeder JM, et al. Shifting from car to active transport: A systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 2014;70:264-280.

Xu 2013* - Xu H, Wen LM, Rissel C. The relationships between active transport to work or school and cardiovascular health or body weight: A systematic review. Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health. 2013;25(4):298-315.

ALR-Hipp 2015 - Hipp JA. Worksite policies and supports for physical activity. 2015 Active Living Research (ALR) Annual Conference. 2015.

Bopp 2013* - Bopp M, Kaczynski AT, Campbell ME. Social ecological influences on work-related active commuting among adults. American Journal of Health Behavior. 2013;37(4):543-554(12).

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Commuter Connections-Bicycling Washington DC - Commuter Connections. Commuting solutions for Washington area employers.

SF Bike-BB - San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Bikes & business (BB): Promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation.

BMC-Employer guide - Baltimore Metropolitan Council, Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB). Employer guide to bicycle commuting: Establishing a bike-friendly workplace for your Baltimore region employees. Baltimore: Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB); 2009.

LAB-BFA - The League of American Bicyclists (LAB). Bicycle friendly America (BFA).

LAB-BFA awards - The League of American Bicyclists (LAB). Bicycle friendly America (BFA) award database: Business.

Date Last Updated

Jul 15, 2015