Objectively Assessing’ Walkability’ of Local Communities: Using GIS to Identify the Relevant Environmental Attributes
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.
KeywordsGIS community walkability walking for transport environment and public health
Aultman-Hall L, Roorda M, Baetz BW (1997) Using GIS for evaluation of neighborhood pedestrian accessibility. Journal of Urban Planning and Development
Bauman A, Sallis JF, Owen N (2002) Environmental and policy measurement in physical activity research. In Welk G & Dale D (Eds.), Physical activity assessments for health-related research.
Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics, pp. 241–251Google Scholar
Booth ML, Bauman A, Owen N, Gore CJ (1997) Physical activity preferences, preferred sources of assistance and perceived barriers to increased activity among physically inactive Australians. Preventive Medicine
Cervero R and Kockelman K (1997) Travel demand and the 3Ds: Density, diversity, and design. Transportation Research PartD
, 2(3): 199–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frank LD (2004) Economic determinants of urban form. Resulting trade-offs between active and sedentary forms of travel. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
27(3S): 146–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Frank L, Andresen MA, Schmid TL (2004) Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Frank LD, Engelke PO, Schmid TL (2003) Health and community design. The impact of the built environment on physical activity.
Washington: Island PressGoogle Scholar
Frank LD, Sallis JF, Saelens BE, Leary LE, Cain K, Conway T (manuscript under review.
) Assessing the relation between urban form and physical activity: design and methods of the Neighborhood Quality of Life StudyGoogle Scholar
Frank LD, Schmid TL, Sallis JF, Chapman J, Saelens BE (2005) Linking objectively measured physical activity with objectively measured urban form. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
28(2S2): 117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giles-Corti B and Donovan RJ (2002) The relative influence of individual, social and physical determinants of physical activity. Social Science and Medicine
Giles-Corti B and Donovan RJ (2003) Relative influences of individual, social environmental and physical environmental correlates of walking. American Journal of Public Health
93(3): 1583–1589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giles-Corti B, Timperio A, Curt H, Pikora TJ, Bull FCL, Knuiman M, et al. (2006) Development of a reliable measure of walking within and outside the local neighborhood: RESIDE’s Neighborhood Physical Activity Questionnaire. Preventive Medicine
Greenwald MJ and Boarnet MG (2001) The built environment as a determinant of walking behavior: Analyzing non-work pedestrian travel in Portland, Oregon. Transportation Research Record
Handy SL, Boarnet MG, Ewing R, Killingsworth RE (2002) How the built environment affects physical activity. Views from urban planning. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Hess PM (1997) Measures of connectivity. Places
Humpel N, Owen N, Leslie E (2002) Environmental factors associated with adults’ participation in physical activity: A review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
22(3): 188–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitamura R, Mokhtarain PL, Laidet L (1997) A micro-analysis of land use and travel in five neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay area. Transportation
Kirtland KA, Porter DE, Addy CL, Neet MJ, Williams JE, Sharpe PA, et al. (2003) Environmental measures of physical activity supports: Perception versus reality. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Learnihan V, Van Niel K, Giles-Corti B (2006) Walking and the built environment. The influence of data scale in walkability analyses: results from RESIDE.
Abstract in Fifth Conference of the International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, ISBNPA, Boston, USA, p.240Google Scholar
Leslie E, Saelens B, Frank L, Owen N, Bauman A, Coffee N, et al. (2005). Residents’ perceptions of walkability attributes in objectively different neighborhoods: a pilot study. Health and Place
Leslie E, Coffee N, Frank L, Owen N, Bauman A, Hugo G (in press, available on line). Walkability of local communities: using Geographical Information Systems to objectively assess relevant environmental attributes. Health and Place
Owen N and Bauman A (1997) The descriptive epidemiology of a sedentary lifestyle in adult Australians. International Journal of Epidemiology
Owen N, Humpel N, Leslie E, Bauman A, Sallis JF. (2004) Understanding environmental influences on walking: review and research agenda. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Pikora TJ, Bull FCL, Jamrozik K, Knuiman M, Giles-Corri B, Donovan RJ (2002) Developing a reliable audit instrument to measure the physical environment for physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Randall TA and Baetz BW (2001) Evaluating pedestrian connectivity for suburban sustainability. Journal of Urban Planning and Development
Rodriguez DA and Joo J (2004) The relationship between non-motorized mode choice and the local physical environment. Transportation Research PartD
, 9:151–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sallis J, Bauman A, Pratt M (1998) Environmental and policy interventions to promote physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
15(4): 379–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Saelens BE, Sallis JF, Frank LD (2003) Environmental correlates of walking and cycling: Findings from the transportation, urban design, and planning literatures. Annals of Behavioral Medicine
Sallis JF, Frank LD, Saelens BE, Kraft MK (2004) Active transportation and physical activity: opportunities for collaboration on transportation and public health. Transportation Research Part A
, 38:249–268Google Scholar
Sallis JF and Owen N (2002) Ecological models of health behavior. In: Glanz K, Lewis FM, Rimer BK. (eds.) Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice.
ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 462–484Google Scholar
Trost SG, Owen N, Bauman AE, Sallis JF, Brown W (2002) Correlates of adults participation in physical activity: review and update. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
34(12): 1996–2001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Troped PJ, Saunders RP, Pate RR, Reininger B, Addy CL (2003) Correlates of recreational and transportation physical activity among adults in a New England community. Preventive Medicine
United States Department of Health and Human Services (1996) Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.
Atlanta, GA: Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health PromotionGoogle Scholar
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2007