Walkable route perceptions and physical features: Converging evidence for en route walking experiences

Brown, B. B., Werner, C. M., Amburgey, J. W., & Szalay, C.

Go to article

Brown, B. B., Werner, C. M., Amburgey, J. W., & Szalay, C. (2007). Walkable route perceptions and physical features: Converging evidence for en route walking experiences. Environment and Behavior, 39(1), 34–61. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916506295569

Environmental Aesthetics , Incivilities , Urban Environment , Walking

Guided walks near a light rail stop in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, were examined using a 2 (gender) × 3 (route walkability: low- mixed-, or high- walkability features) design. Trained raters confirmed that more walkable segments had more traffic, environmental, and social safety; pleasing aesthetics; natural features; pedestrian amenities; and land use diversity (using the Irvine-Minnesota physical environment audit) and a superior social milieu rating. According to tape-recorded open-ended descriptions, university student participants experienced walkable route segments as noticeably safer, with a more positive social environment, fewer social and physical incivilities, and more attractive natural and built environment features. According to closed-ended scales, walkable route segments had more pleas- ant social and/or environmental atmosphere and better traffic safety. Few gender differences were found. Results highlight the importance of under- standing subjective experiences of walkability and suggest that these experiences should be an additional focus of urban design.

Main finding
This study seeks to determine whether aspects of the Irvine-Minnesota physical environmental audit (primarily a measure of neighborhood walkability) correlate with real-life experiences. Results indicate that highly "walkable" sidewalk segments (determined by IMI standards) were also described as walkable by study participants. Such routes were also perceived as more pleasant, attractive, vibrant, interesting, and well-maintained. These results indicate that the measures of walkability in the IMI are useful, but the study authors suggest that more measures related to subjective experience should be built into the audit.

Description of method used in the article
A 2x3 (gender [male, female], walkability [low-, medium-, high-walkability features]) study with two data collection phases in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah in 2004-2005. Study 1 (N = 26, 7 male, 19 female, average age: 24) and Study 2 (N = 47, 18 male, 29 female, average age: 24). In both cases, men and women were guided on a two-hour walk in one of the three walkability conditions. Participants were guided by experimenters and in the first half asked to describe their experiences. On the return trip, they were asked to respond to an 18-point scale for each segment. Each route was also analyzed by trained observers using the Irvine Minnesota Inventory (classes of walkability features: [a] traffic safety, [b] crime [c] pedestrian safety, and [d] pleasurability). A measure of “social milieu” was also added. Multivariate tests were used to explore the relationship between participant responses and evaluations of the segments using the IMI.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Walking or Rolling
Spatial Methods Survey
Environmental Psychology
Physical types
Geographic locations