INTRODUCTION: Only one-third of the European population meets the minimum recommended levels of physical activity (PA). Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Walking and cycling for transport (active mobility, AM) are well suited to provide regular PA. The European research project Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA) pursues the following aims: (1) to investigate correlates and interrelations of AM, PA, air pollution and crash risk; (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of selected interventions to promote AM; (3) to improve health impact assessment (HIA) of AM; (4) to foster the exchange between the disciplines of public health and transport planning, and between research and practice. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: PASTA pursues a mixed-method and multilevel approach that is consistently applied in seven case study cities. Determinants of AM and the evaluation of measures to increase AM are investigated through a large scale longitudinal survey, with overall 14,000 respondents participating in Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Örebro, Rome, Vienna and Zurich. Contextual factors are systematically gathered in each city. PASTA generates empirical findings to improve HIA for AM, for example, with estimates of crash risks, factors on AM-PA substitution and carbon emissions savings from mode shifts. Findings from PASTA will inform WHO's online Health Economic Assessment Tool on the health benefits from cycling and/or walking. The study's wide scope, the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods and health and transport methods, the innovative survey design, the general and city-specific analyses, and the transdisciplinary composition of the consortium and the wider network of partners promise highly relevant insights for research and practice. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics approval has been obtained by the local ethics committees in the countries where the work is being conducted, and sent to the European Commission before the start of the survey. The PASTA website (http://www.pastaproject.eu) is at the core of all communication and dissemination activities.