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Environmental correlates of walking and cycling: Findings from the transportation, urban design, and planning literatures


Research in transportation, urban design, and planning has examined associations between physical environment variables and individuals’ walking and cycling for transport. Constructs, methods, and findings from these fields can be applied by physical activity and health researchers to improve understanding of environmental influences on physical activity. In this review, neighborhood environment characteristics proposed to be relevant to walking/cycling for transport are defined, including population density, connectivity, and land use mix. Neighborhood comparison and correlational studies with nonmotorized transport outcomes are considered, with evidence suggesting that residents from communities with higher density, greater connectivity, and more land use mix report higher rates of walking/cycling for utilitarian purposes than low-density, poorly connected, and single land use neighborhoods. Environmental variables appear to add to variance accounted for beyond sociodemographic predictors of walking/cycling for transport. Implications of the transportation literature for physical activity and related research are outlined. Future research directions are detailed for physical activity research to further examine the impact of neighborhood and other physical environment factors on physical activity and the potential interactive effects of psychosocial and environmental variables. The transportation, urban design, and planning literatures provide a valuable starting point for multidisciplinary research on environmental contributions to physical activity levels in the population.

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Correspondence to Brian E. Saelens Ph.D..

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Saelens, B.E., Sallis, J.F. & Frank, L.D. Environmental correlates of walking and cycling: Findings from the transportation, urban design, and planning literatures. ann. behav. med. 25, 80–91 (2003).

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  • Physical Activity
  • Behavioral Medicine
  • Urban Form
  • Urban Design
  • Transportation Research Record