Objectively Measuring Route-To-Park Walkability in Atlanta, Georgia

James E. Dills, Karen G. Mumford & Candace D. Rutt

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Dills, J. E. , Mumford, K. G. & Rutt, C. D. (1). Objectively Measuring Route-To-Park Walkability in Atlanta, Georgia. Environment and Behavior, 44(6), 841–860. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0013916511404409

Neighborhood Environment , Park Use , Pedestrian , Physical Activity , Walking

Many people fail to achieve recommended levels of physical activity. Neighborhood parks serve as locations in which physical activity often occurs, and walking to parks provides added opportunity for leisure-time activity. The authors examine environmental characteristics of shortest pedestrian routes to parks to determine how route walkability affects park use. Using an objective environmental audit, the authors found that routes of park users were measurably more walkable than those of nonpark users and that each unit increase in total walkability score associated with a 20% increase in the likelihood of walking to the park, controlling for education and route length (odds ratio = 1.20; 95% confidence interval = [1.07, 1.34]). The most significant elements measured in- cluded route distance, traffic, neighborhood maintenance, street maintenance, safety, and aesthetics. Pedestrian scale environmental characteristics are associated with individuals’ use of neighborhoods for physical activity. Understanding these relationships can contribute to evidence-based design interventions to increase physical activity.

Main finding
The quality and characteristics of park design could relate to how often and well a park is used, but what about the walking routes local residents take to get there? This study examines walking paths park users and non-park users and finds park users' routes were more walkable. Elements that make such routes walkable include beauty, street maintenance, daytime safety, nighttime safety, route land-use mix, traffic, and interesting sights. Park users also lived on paths with less distance and fewer street segments.

Description of method used in the article
Neighborhood Parks and Active Living (NPAL) case-control study design of residents who live near 11 parks in DeKalb County, Georgia. The walkability of the shortest route paths from homes to the nearby park was analyzed for (a) park users (N = 77) and (b) non-park users (N = 83). Demographics of residents were obtained by survey, and the route-based environmental data was collected by NPAL staff members. Route data for generating walkability scores contain measurements of 12 elements of the pedestrian environment (street maintenance, neighborhood maintenance, sidewalks, crossings, traffic, hills, other pedestrians, interesting sights, beauty, trees and greenery, personal safety, and land-use mix). Walkability scores for each participant is generated for comparison. Data collection occurred in 2006 and 2007.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Spatial Methods Survey
Physical types
Parks/Gardens Streets
Geographic locations