Identifying and Measuring Urban Design Qualities Related to Walkability

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

In active living research, measures used to characterize the built environment have been mostly gross qualities such as neighborhood density and park access. This project has developed operational definitions and measurement protocols for subtler urban design qualities believed to be related to walkability.

Methods:

Methods included: 1) recruiting an expert panel; 2) shooting video clips of streetscapes; 3) rating urban design qualities of streetscapes by the expert panel; 4) measuring physical features of streetscapes from the video clips; 5) testing inter-rater reliability of physical measurements and urban design quality ratings; 6) statistically analyzing relationships between physical features and urban design quality ratings, 7) selecting of qualities for operationalization, and 8) developing of operational definitions and measurement protocols for urban design qualities based on statistical relationships.

Results:

Operational definitions and measurement protocols were developed for five of nine urban design qualities: imageability, visual enclosure, human scale, transparency, and complexity.

Conclusions:

A field survey instrument has been developed, tested in the field, and further refined for use in active living research.

Ewing and Clemente are with the National Center for Smart Growth, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. Handy is with the Dept of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616. Ross C. Brownson is with the Prevention Research Center, Saint Louis University School of Public Health, St. Louis, MO 63104. Winston is with the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616.