Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Neighbourhood Walkability

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Neighbourhood Walkability

Walkability is an assessment of how well the design of neighbourhoods promotes active transport (AT) such as taking a walk, going for a bike ride, going rollerblading or skateboarding (Muhajarine, 2014). What makes neighbourhoods walkable for children is shaped by how easy they could engage in the primary activities they do (going to school, visiting friends, accessing playgrounds) countered by concerns for safety (Muhajarine, 2014). Design elements that affect walkability are sidewalks, street layouts, diverse land use, and proximity to amenities (Muhajarine, 2014).


Built Environment (BE)

Built Environment refers to all human-made surroundings - the spaces where we live, work and play. The built environment includes tangible structures, such as buildings, streets, parks, businesses, schools, road systems, transportation networks, and other infrastructure (BC Health Living Alliance, 2007).

Active Transportation (AT)

Active Transport is defined as all human-powered forms of travel, such as walking, cycling, in-line skating, skate boarding, skiing, canoeing etc. Walking and cycling are the most popular and can be combined with other modes, such as public transit (BC Health Living Alliance, 2007).

Physical Activity (PA)

Physical activity is defined by the World Health Organization as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure. This includes any movement such as crawling, walking, running, or lifting that one engages in (Province of British Columbia, 2015). The provincial government of British Columbia has identified physical activity as a key to healthy living, in addition to healthy eating and tobacco reduction. Through partnerships, the Ministry supports the development of programs and infrastructure to encourage physical activity throughout British Columbia (Province of British Columbia, 2015).


Pre-World War II

Before World War II, active travel, active play, incidental activity, physically demanding work and household chores were integral to daily life (Giles-Corti, Kelty, Zubrick, & Villanueva, 2009).

Post-World War II

In the post-World War II era, the environment have change dramatically and it appears to have a detrimental impact on the lifestyle and incidental physical activity of young people(Giles-Corti et al., 2009). These changes are not trivial and have the potential to influence not only physical health, but also mental health and child development(Giles-Corti et al., 2009). Nowadays, technological advances have dramatically reduced incidental physical activity (Giles-Corti et al., 2009). Popular leisure-time activities, especially for children and adolescents, have also become more sedentary such as electronic gaming (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).


Daily Activities for Children

Increasing daily activities such as walking to school and doing errands with or for parents have been are strategies for increasing PA (Giles-Corti et al., 2009). There is consistent evidence that active transport among children and adolescents has declined in the last two decades (Giles-Corti et al., 2009). The decline of active trips to school appear to be a major contributor (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

Walking distance to school

Children living within 800 m of their school were 5 to 10 times more likely to commute to school (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

Children and Active Transport

Children who walk to school are likely to engage in more physical activity overall and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than children who travel by motorized travel (Panter, Jones, & Sluijs, 2008).

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors such as connectivity, urban form, and the provision of sidewalks and cycle paths have been shown to be associated with active transport (Panter et al., 2008) Interventions that modify environments to make them more suitable for walking and cycling may be particularly effective as they provide the potential for sustained impacts on whole populations (Panter et al., 2008).

Urban Areas

Urban areas are often more walkable than suburban areas making active transport more frequent in areas with high urbanization(Muhajarine, 2014).

Walkable Neighbourhood

High Walkable Neighbourhood

Walkable neighbourhoods are characterized by:

1. street networks based on the traditional grid system that provides enhanced street connectivity and a variety of direct routes to local destinations (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

2.moderate to high urban density, which means more people have access to local destinations, which in turn increases the viability of local businesses and transit (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

3.mixed land uses incorporating residential dwellings, shops, utilities, services and parks (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

If a neighbourhood meets these 3 elements, people in the neighbourhood are likely to engage in active transport (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

Low Walkable Neighbourhood

Low walkable neighbourhoods have low density, poor access to shops and services, and disconnected street networks based on cul-de-sacs that lead into high-speed arterial roads, providing hazardous barriers for walkers and cyclists (Giles-Corti et al., 2009).

Characteristics of a Walkable Neighbourhood

The neighbourhood environment of a child is likely to be a important factor in their choice of travel modes because the child and their parents come into contact with the environment at a daily basis (Panter et al., 2008).


Safety is a complex concept as it includes many components (Panter et al., 2008). Parental concern about safety is often a barrier to their children's engagement of walking and cycling (Panter et al., 2008). Personal and road safety are the main components for the parent's fears, for letting their children engage in active transport (Panter et al., 2008).

Personal safety

Personal safety of the child shows strong correlations with the parent's concern for their child. Reports show that greater parental concerns were associated with youth being less likely to actively transport (walk or cycle) to school (Panter et al., 2008). A research finding by Kerr et al found that youth whose parents who showed lower general concerns about their safety, either in their routes to the location or in their neighbourhood, were 5.2 times more likely to walk or cycle to school (Kerr et al, 2006).

Road safety

A study done by Timperio et al. found that children whose parents reported that there were no crossing or lights in the neighbourhood, and those who had to cross busy roads to get to school, were less likely to actively travel to school (Timperio et al., 2006). Another research found that adolescent boys whose parents reported that traffic made it difficult or unpleasant to walk in their neighbourhood were less likely to engage in actively transport around their neighbourhood (Panter et al., 2008). Unsafe roads were also associated with a lower prevalence of walking in children, regardless of whether the child or parent reported safety (Panter et al., 2008).

Social interactions

In adolescents, low peer support was associated with a reduced rates of active travel. Research found that adolescents, particularly girls, who had friends living nearby, young people around the same age to socialize with, and are familiar with their neighbours were more likely to report walking and cycling in the neighbourhood (Panter et al., 2008). For boys, having children in the neighbourhood around the same age shows association with more cycling for transport (Panter et al., 2008).

Facilities to assist active travel

Having the presence of facilities such as sidewalks and cycle paths would encourage walking and cycling (Panter et al., 2008). A large study on elementary school students aged 5 to 18 in Florida, found that students were more likely to walk to school if there was high sidewalk coverage around their school and home (Panter et al., 2008). Parents reported that having sidewalks on most of the streets in their neighbourhood would make it over 4 times more likely for them to feel safe and allow their children to walking or cycling to school (Panter et al., 2008).

General aesthetics

Kerr et al. report that those youth whose parents believed their neighbourhood was aesthetically pleasing were 2.5 times more likely to report active commuting compared to those rating their neighbourhood as less pleasing (Kerr et al, 2006).

Characteristics of the destinations and their surrounding environment

The presence of a busy road in close proximity to a destination may deter children from walking or cycling to it even if their residential neighbourhood is traffic free (Panter et al., 2008). Destinations where windows of building faced the streets and where mixed land uses were present, correlates to children being more likely report to active travel (Panter et al., 2008)

Characteristics of the routes between destinations and home

Length of route

The length of route to school was found to be a significant predictor of travel behavior in all studies, with those who had shorter journey distances being more likely to walk or cycle to school (Panter et al., 2008). Those who had journey to school less than 800 meters were over 5 times more likely to report walking or cycling to school (Panter et al., 2008). For children aged 10-12 traveling to destinations proximal to their home, are reported over 10 times more likely to walk and cycle (Panter et al., 2008).

Road safety on the route

The measures of a safe road were the presence of roads, where the speeds of vehicles were slow , which were not busy , and routes of roads where parents perceived was safe (Panter et al., 2008). A high measure of traffic safety is associated with higher levels of walking or cycling for transport (Panter et al., 2008). Children who passed environments that underwent improvements (better sidewalks and roads) reported more likely to show an increase in active travel to school than children who did not pass them (Panter et al., 2008).

Urban form & topography

Urban form routes to school including connectivity and intersection density shows mixed association to active travel (Panter et al., 2008). The built environment on travel behavior may differ according to the trip length (Panter et al., 2008). Adolescents who had a direct route to school were reported less likely to walking or cycling, suggesting a disconnected environment may represent a safer route for walking or cycling as a mode of transport (Panter et al., 2008). Research shows that routes who have higher intersections and lower dead end densities encourages children to walk to school (Panter et al., 2008).

Practical Applications

Walkability Checklist

This Walkability Tool Kit offers a simple tool to help you measure the walkability environment of you neighbourhood (Jane's Walk, 2014). This process help connect locals residents, raise awareness about what a walkable community is like, and collect data and observations to make improvement in the future. There are 27 key elements that makes up a walkable neighbourhood and are as follows (Jane's Walk, 2014).

1. Sidewalks for all reasons- Wind, rain, and snow make walking conditions unpleasant and uninviting. Poor snow clearance, pooling water, mud, and ice are significant impediments to walking.

2. Snow Removal- Snow and ice clearance can present a serious impediment for walkers. Seniors and people with mobility impairments are at even greater risk of slipping and injuring themselves.

3. Missing sidewalks- In areas originally designed for cars, sidewalks are often missing. Sidewalks are needed to make it easier to get around on foot.

4. Space on sidewalk- Walkers need enough room to walk safely without being forced into the street by the volume of walkers.

5. Curbs and barriers-Steps, concrete blocks, and curbs limit access to people in wheelchairs, with strollers, and the elderly. Curb cuts and ramps make places more accessible.

6. The best offence is a good de-fence - Walking routes are often unnecessarily blocked with fences, barriers, bollards, and gates. Removing obstacles on paths would make popular shortcuts easier and safer to use.

7. Where there’s a will, there’s a walk-Fences interrupt the flow and ‘connectivity’ of direct walking routes. People often cut holes in fences or go over them, creating unsafe passageways and snags. Shortcuts should be formalized and made safer with pathways and good lighting.

8. Broken and uneven pavement-It is discouraging to walk through a neighbourhood with uneven, broken pavement and potholes.

9. Blocked sidewalks-Light and sign posts, electrical boxes, newspaper boxes, and other objects should not block sidewalks and walkways. Walkers should have a clear path free of obstructions.

You can access the full list at:


British Columbia Healthy Living Alliance. (2007). BEAT - the Path to Health. Retrieved from

Giles-Corti, B., Kelty, S.F., Zubrick, S.R., & Villanueva, K.P. (2009). Encouraging Walking for Transport and Physical Activity in Children and Adolescents. Sports Medicine, 39(12), 995-1009. doi:10.2165/11319620-000000000-00000

Jane's Walk. (2010). Walkability Checklist. Retrieved from

Jane's Walk. (2014). What is Walkability. Retrieved from

Kerr, J., Rosenberg, D., Sallis, J.F., Saelens, B.E., Frank, L.D., & Conway, T.L. (2006). Active commuting to school: Associations with environment and parental concerns. Medicine &amp Science in Sports &amp Exercise, 38(4), 787-94. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000210208.63565.73

Muhajarine, N. (2014). How does the built environment affect children's activity levels. Retrieved from

Province of British Columbia. (2015). Physical Activity. Retrieved from

Panter, J.R., Jones, A.P., & Sluijs. E.MF.V. (2008). Environmental determinants of active travel in youth: A review and framework for the future research. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5:34. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-5-34

Timperio, A., Ball, K., Salmon, J., Roberts, R., Giles-Corti, B., Simmons, D., . . . Crawford, D. (2006). Personal, Family, Social, and Environmental Correlates of Active Commuting to School. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 30(1), 45-51. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.08.047