Scaling up active transportation across North America: A comparative content analysis of policies through a social equity framework

Elsevier, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Volume 176, October 2023
Soliz A., Carvalho T., Sarmiento-Casas C., Sanchez-Rodriguez J., El-Geneidy A.

Federal governments across North America are increasingly working to scale up active-transport investments to harmonize policy efforts aimed at addressing intersecting urban, environmental, and public-health problems. While such policies promise to provide increased support for cycling, walking, and other active mobilities, the extent to which central-government interventions can foster wide-reaching and equitable infrastructure transitions remains an open question. This paper offers a comparison of recent federal policy initiatives aimed at supporting the development of active-transport facilities across Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Using a comparative content-analysis approach, we analyse federal active-transport strategies in terms of policy development, goals, instruments, as well as social-equity and road-safety considerations. Findings indicate that policy instruments, development resources, and social-equity mechanisms vary considerably between the three countries. While Canada's recent policies offer targeted project funding for active transport, its national road-safety vision lacks attention to social equity concerns. The United States’ policies emphasize large-scale infrastructure transitions, but risk deprioritizing active-transport projects within wider investments. Mexico's new mobility and road safety law lacks infrastructure funding but leads in its human-rights approach. While these variances can be attributed to specific differences between national contexts, we posit that they also provide insights into shared challenges and opportunities in federal efforts aimed at providing comprehensive support for active-transport systems. Through a systematic content analysis of recent policies, this paper aims to provide an exploratory assessment of how federal governments are mobilizing diverse approaches to active-transport policymaking and to contribute to multi-scalar theorizing on transport equity and mobility justice.