Research on Active Design in Springfield (R.O.A.D.S.) Study

Springfield, Massachusetts is a mid-sized city with a large community of color population experiencing socioeconomic and health inequities. Historically, there has been little infrastructure in Springfield to support active transportation and recreational walking and biking, so in 2015, the Springfield City Council adopted a city-wide “Complete Streets” resolution.

“Complete Streets” policies enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists of all ages and abilities, yet little empirical evidence has documented their impact on the community and health and well-being.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this research is a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods participatory research project using an equity lens. It will holistically examine effects of adoption and implementation of Complete Streets policies to understand whether the policies lead to changes in:

  • The built environment (e.g. traffic calming; bicycle/pedestrian facilities),
  • The economic environment (e.g. retail activity),
  • The social environment (e.g. perceived safety, social cohesion), and
  • Health/health behaviors (e.g. physical activity).

The study will use existing and original data, including objectively measured physical activity. Research will be conducted in partnership with community partners, including LiveWellSpringfield’s Transforming Community Initiative, to leverage collective expertise and existing data collection efforts, to engage residents as research partners, and ensure results and research products are designed and disseminated to benefit the community and foster health equity. Resident perception of the policy and infrastructure changes will also be assessed.

Complete Streets policies have the potential to impact equity by creating activity-friendly environments in communities experiencing large social, economic, and health inequities. This study seeks to determine if the policies can and do achieve that potential.

The R.O.A.D.S. Study is a collaboration between ChildObesity180 (Erin Hennessy, PhD, MPH; Principal Investigator) and the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (Kathleen Szegeda, PhD, MPH, Principal Investigator).