Tuesday, February 21, 2012


by George D. Schroeder

Walkable neighborhoods are becoming increasingly desirable for both local governments and residential communities. Walkable neighborhoods have healthier residents, higher levels of social capital, higher property values, and environmentally friendly qualities.1 Nonetheless, 60 percent of the U.S. population does not get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity each day, contributing to higher rates of obesity and other serious health problems such as heart disease.2 Additionally, over 90 percent of travel trips one to two miles in length are made by private automobiles.3 Public interest and advocacy from the urban planning and public health disciplines are bringing attention to the need to improve walkability in American cities.
It is widely known throughout the planning field that post-World War II U.S. urban and suburban development centered on automobile accessibility at the expense of other transportation modes.4 San José, California, is a classic example of a city that largely developed during the automobile age, leaving behind a legacy of mid-20th century planning policies and an auto-centric environment. A key question for planners, public officials, and researchers is how to reverse this legacy and transform these communities into active, pedestrian-friendly cities.
This research utilizes a modified version of Clifton et al.’s Pedestrian Environment Data Scan (PEDS) instrument,5 referred to simply as the Walkability Audit Instrument (WAI) to audit the walkability of two San José neighborhoods with contrasting urban form patterns. The Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace (FWBT) neighborhood contains compact, rectilinear pre-World War II development and the West Evergreen (WE) neighborhood consists of sprawling, post-World War II suburban development.
This research project is one of few to apply the PEDS instrument in a practical setting. Results from this research will be of interest to planning practitioners, public health officials, and researchers across the U.S. facing similar questions of how to reconfigure their auto-centric neighborhoods into walkable communities.
There are three main objectives for this project:
1. Provide an example of the effect of urban form on walkability in San José
2. Provide fine-grained pedestrian environment data for each public street segment in the FWBT and WE neighborhoods
3. Provide recommendations to improve walkability in the subject neighborhoods which can also be applied to other San José neighborhoods.
This report consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the project, its methodology, and explains its relevance. Chapter 2 analyzes literature on the built environment’s effect on walking. Chapter 3 reviews current literature on walkability audits. Chapter 4 reviews the City of San José’s and respective neighborhoods’ major planning documents related to pedestrians. Chapter 5 provides more background on the two neighborhoods and discusses current walkability concerns. Chapter 6 provides an overview of PEDS, the WAI, and the methodology used in the audit. Chapter 7 details the audit findings and recommendations, and Chapter 8 concludes the report.
There are four appendices at the end of the report. Appendix A explains the dynamics and administration protocol for each item of the WAI. Appendix B lists each street segment that was audited, its numeric score, and rating. Appendix C shows detailed audit result tables broken down by each item of the WAI. Appendix D identifies street segments and intersections that lack sidewalks and provisions for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility.

more about walkability:

Validating walkability indices: How do different households respond to the walkability of their neighbourhood?

Steps Forward: Review and Recommendations for Research on Walkability, Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health

Environmental Correlates of Walking and Cycling: Findings From the Transportation, Urban Design, and Planning Literatures

Accessibility Measures: Overview and Practical Applications

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