Systematic review of walkability indices used in studies assessing adults’ walking for transportation Open Access

Ehrlich, Leanna (Summer 2021)

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Neighborhood environmental characteristics are associated with physical activity behaviors of residents. Many studies have examined the association between components of built environment and health behaviors. Both the obesity and the climate change crisis require creative solutions to encourage people to move more and pollute less. Increasing active transportation is one method to increase physical activity and decrease transportation-related emissions (a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution). This systematic review evaluated which walkability indices were used in studies on the association between walkability and walking for transportation. The protocol was guided by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). Four scientific databases were searched. One reviewer conducted screening, data extraction, and quality assessments. Articles were included if the independent variable assessed was an objective walkability index and if the outcome assessed walking for utilitarian purposes/transportation. Study populations were adults in developed countries. 28 articles met inclusion criteria. Studies were cross-sectional (n = 23) and cohort-based (n = 5). Studies were in Canada (n = 11), the United States (n = 7), Australia (n = 4), Belgium (n = 3), Sweden (n = 2), and Japan (n = 1). Walkability indices included the Walk Score (n = 16), a GIS-derived index developed by Frank and colleagues (n = 8), cluster-derived walkability (n = 2), SPACES instrument (n = 1), validated paper map data (n = 1), and the EPA Walkability Index (n = 1). All studies found a significant association between walkability and walking for transportation in at least one of their outcomes. No negative associations were reported, but some non-significant positive associations were. Results showed that the Walk Score index was the most common index used. Walk Score has been validated for accuracy as a walkability index in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The index was enhanced in 2011 to incorporate improved walking distance estimates, intersections, block length, and amenity weighting. To promote use of comparable indices in future studies, efforts should be made to validate Walk Score in additional countries or establish correlation between Walk Score and GIS measures of walkability. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction 1

Chapter 2: Comprehensive Review of the Literature 3

Table 1: Reviews of Similar Topics 12

Chapter 3 – Project Content 15



Figure 1: PRISMA Chart 23

Table 2: Quality Assessment 34

Table 3: Overview of Studies 38

Chapter 4: Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations 45

References 55

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