The relationship of neighborhood built environment features and walking

Alfonzo, M., Boarnet, M., Day, K., McMillan, T., & C.L. Anderson.
Journal of Urban Design, 13(1), 29–52

Research on urban design and walking often emphasizes macro-scale features of the physical environment, such as block length and number of intersections, that can be measured remotely using GIS and or aerial photographs. In contrast, urban designers emphasize the importance of micro-scale features in individuals' use and experience of neighbourhood environments. This paper moves beyond examining correlations of individual built environment features and walking, to begin to test proposals about which composite characteristics of the built environment (safety, comfort, etc.) may have the greatest impact on walking. Several urban design characteristics of 11 neighbourhoods throughout California were observed. Self-report, adult walking data on the number and types of walking trips were obtained from surveys administered to parents of 3rd–5th graders. Urban design features related to both accessibility and safety are associated with the amount of walking that adults do in their neighbourhoods. Grouping related urban design variables into indices provides some clarity as to how the built environment may impact walking. Safety emerges as the most important built environment characteristic (of those tested), related to both destination and recreational walking.

Wagner Faculty