On the surface, the latest Sport England Active Lives Survey had some encouraging headlines. But having a professional and personal interest in the active environment, a couple of stats jumped out at me…
Active travel, <1.8 million people compared to pre-Covid 2019 levels
Walking for leisure, <1.1 million
Cycling, <0.1 million
Running, <0.3m since 2019
“No ethnic minority group is showing a reportable difference compared to November 2015-16 - and activity remains down across the least affluent”
Safe, accessible, high-quality active environments are at the heart of the above figures. The biggest challenge to date has been (because it's a national sample survey) that reporting takes six months to release and stops at a local authority level. It doesn’t speak to the parks, trails, pitches and courts that are on our doorsteps, or the neighbourhoods we live in that we are aiming to activate.
Therefore, knowing what is working and what isn’t within different local facilities, spaces and places, across different types of communities, and in a timely fashion, has not been available to date. This has limited all of our abilities to influence and connect with local stakeholders and collaborate around the shaping of better active environments.
This is now changing with innovation around Movement Data. Ongoing daily tracking of millions of phones to accurately and consistently know when, where and why our communities come together. And linking this data to every facility, space and place across the UK.
The Steve Bernard Foundation opened a new free outdoor gym between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers in November 2022. Tracking by month and time of day, Movement Data has demonstrated how this intervention has activated a community and made greater use of an active environment. Importantly, there’s now an objective evidence base for guiding the next similar intervention. Making local decisions and collaboration better and faster.
The City of Doncaster introduced a new active travel route by converting an old railway line, which now connects a low-income residential area to the nearby industrial area, meaning a safe and active commute is available for residents (many of whom are from ethnic minority groups). The Council is now tracking the uplift in usage on a rolling basis and targeting other high-priority communities and assets that could be activated similarly, having a line of sight on the likely outcomes (and impacts) of a range of different possible interventions, drawing on a growing set of local and national data-driven examples.
Another local authority is looking at how a newly constructed residential area can connect with a local woodland, and the interventions needed to support this while ensuring the use from different communities protects the biodiversity and attributes of the environment. The local authority is using Movement Data to also proactively spot and then address barriers to access.
ActiveXchange and the Movement Data initiative.
Until now, those interested in understanding how people move in a broad range of environments has been limited by both available data and the technology to turn this into easy-to-use actionable insights.
Most of what we know about what people do is based on transactional data taken from a limited range of sources such as leisure centres, other paid-for leisure facilities, membership data from clubs or organisations, or it is extrapolated from sample-based surveys such as Active Lives.
ActiveXchange has developed its Movement Data module to fill in some of these blanks. For the first time, users can visualise and analyse the level of activity in any place or space, anywhere in the country, at any time. This helps a wide range of local authority departments as well as regional and national bodies to:
Track trends of usage of any identified area.
Compare usage with previous years (starting from January 2022).
Measure the pre-post impact of interventions in any space.
Compare the relative performance of any space with local or national comparators.
These unique insights provide a robust and objective evidence base at scale for:
Decision-making around the development, protection, or rationalisation of spaces.
More effective grant applications, business cases, and impact reports.
Internal and external benchmarking of performance to identify opportunities.
Knowing when infrastructure is busy (e.g. skateparks), to inform proactive community safety, ASB-reduction, and community development work.
Investment impact measurement for capital infrastructure improvements, or commissioned services – before and after.
Track trends in the usage of any space to inform maintenance scheduling.
Measure and compare active travel infrastructure in connecting communities.
Commercial revenue generation by understanding volumes of people moving through spaces, informing leasing, sponsorship and marketing activities.
ActiveXchange and Why Sport has recently launched a data and insight partnership, intending to open up the most innovative, relevant and actionable insights on a rolling basis . Designed to support a network of planners, funders and delivery organisations to drive effective collaboration and to help o shape the active and healthy communities of tomorrow.