Objectively Assessing’ Walkability’ of Local Communities: Using GIS to Identify the Relevant Environmental Attributes

  • Eva Leslie
  • Ester Cerin
  • Lorinne duToit
  • Neville Owen
  • Adrian Bauman


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) may be used to measure objectively, those features of the built environment that may influence walking. Public health research on environmental determinants of physical activity in adults shows that different factors can influence walking for recreation, compared to walking for transport. Most studies have used perceived (self-report) rather than objective measures of potentially relevant environmental attributes. We describe how a previously-developed index of ‘walkability’ was operationalized in an Australian context, using available spatial data. Attributes believed to be of relevance to walking for transport, that are measurable using GIS, are: Dwelling density (higher-density neighborhoods support greater retail and service variety, resulting in shorter, walkable distances between facilities; driving and parking are more difficult and time consuming). Connectivity (higher intersection densities provide people with a greater variety of potential routes, easier access to major roads where public transport is available and shorter times to get to destinations). Land use mix (the more varied the land use mix and built form, then the more conducive it is to walk to various destinations). Net retail area (there are more options for destinations where goods and services may be purchased and more local employment opportunities that can be reached by walking). The associations of these attributes with walking behaviors can be examined separately, or in combination. Such GIS data are very helpful in fundamental studies of the environmental determinants of behavior, and also in applied policy research for cities, regions or local communities, to address public health and environmental issues.


GIS community walkability walking for transport environment and public health 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Leslie
    • 1
  • Ester Cerin
    • 2
  • Lorinne duToit
    • 3
  • Neville Owen
    • 3
  • Adrian Bauman
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Human PerformanceUniversity of Hong Kong HKChina
  3. 3.Cancer Prevention Research CentreUniversity of QueenslandAustralia
  4. 4.NSW Centre for Physical Activity and HealthUniversity of SydneyAustralia

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