The Built Environment Archives 1
- Rising levels of childhood obesity in the United States and a 75% decline in the proportion of children walking to school in the past 30 years have focused attention on school travel. This paper uses data from the US Department of Transportation’s 2001 National Household Travel Survey to analyze the factors affecting mode choice for elementary and middle school children.
- The analysis shows that walk travel time is the most policy-relevant factor affecting the decision to walk to school. If policymakers want to increase walking rates, these findings suggest that current policies, such as Safe Routes to School, which do not affect the spatial distribution of schools and residences, will not be enough to change travel behavior. The final part of the paper uses the mode choice model to test how a land use strategy-community schools-might affect walking to school.
- The results show that community schools have the potential to increase walking rates but would require large changes from current land use, school, and transportation planning practices.
McDonald, N.C. (2008). Children's Mode Choice for the School Trip: The Role of Distance and School Location in Walking to School. Transportation, 35(1), 23-35.
- This study examines the usefulness of applying a walking suitability assessment to a specific geographic area surrounding elementary schools. The walking suitability assessment focuses on the curb zone (i.e., area from the street to where the curb meets the sidewalk) through the walking zone (i.e., the sidewalk).
- Streets within a 0.25-mile radius were measured to create a summary walking suitability score for seven schools from high-busing strata and seven from low-busing strata.
- Walking suitability is an important consideration when examining the feasibility of walk-to-school programs within school settings; however, it might not be the main factor limiting children’s active commuting to school.
- Several aspects of the environment were captured that researchers, practitioners, school personnel, and transportation experts may deem useful.
Lee, Sarah M., Tudor-Locke, Catrine, and Burns, Elizabeth K. “Application of a Walkability Suitability Assessment to the Immediate Built Environment Surrounding Elementary Schools.” Health Promotion Practice. 9.3 (2008): 246-252.
- Data from the 1969 and 2001 National Household Transportation Survey report that a smaller percentage of students lived within 1 mile of school in 2001 than in 1969.
- The percentage of students who walked or biked any distance decreased from 42.0% to 16.2%.
- Nearly half of students used more than 1 travel mode or went to an additional destination en route between home and school in 2001.
- Implications from this study indicate that a multidisciplinary effort is needed to increase the percentage of students who walk or bike to school, as well as decrease the distances that students travel.
Ham, Sandra A., Martin, Sarah, and Kohl III, Harold W. “Changes in the Percentage of Students Who Walk or Bike to School – United States, 1969 and 2001.” Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 5.2 (2008): 205-215
- Only 14% of students aged 5-14 years usually walk to school.
- The most frequently reported barrier to walking to school is distance.
- For students that live within 1 mile of school, implementation of effective pedestrian interventions can reduce the traffic dangers that prevent children from walking to school.
Beck, Laurie F. and Greenspan, Arlene I. “Why Don’t More Children Walk to School?” Journal of Safety Research. 39.5 (2008): 449-52.
- Incorporating a health promotion approach in the design and development of the built environment can ease climate change and promote healthier living.
Dannenberg, Andrew L., Morrow Almeida, Heather, Vindigni, Stephen M. and Younger, Margalit. "The Built Environment, Climate Change, and Health Opportunities for Co-Benefits." American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 35.5 (2008): 517-526.
- This article summarizes research on predictors and health consequences of active commuting to school and evaluates programs specific to children’s walking and bicycling to school, including Safe Routes to School.
- Research demonstrates that children who walk or bicycle to school have higher daily levels of physical activity and better cardiovascular fitness than do children who do not actively commute to school.
- A review of the literature identifies a wide range of predictors of children’s active commuting behaviors, including demographic factors, individual and family factors, school factors (including the immediate area surrounding schools), and social and physical environmental factors.
- Safe Routes to School and the Walking School Bus are two public health efforts that promote walking and bicycling to school.
- Evidence suggests that these activities are viewed positively by key stakeholders and have positive effects on children’s active commuting to school.
Davison, Kirsten K., Werder, Jessica L. and Lawson, Catherine T. “Children’s Active Commuting to School: Current Knowledge and Future Directions.” Preventing Chronic Disease. 5.3 (2008): A100.
- This study estimates of the amount of land area and population in the United States that could be affected by Safe Routes to School programs, and examines the types of locations where such improvements are likely to affect the greatest number of people and the improvements it could have on the larger community.
- Communities with limited funds may be able to improve their overall walkability by using federal Safe Routes to School funding to improve walking and cycling routes to schools.
Watson, Margaret and Dannenberg, Andrew. “Investment in Safe Routes to School Projects: Public Health Benefits for the Larger Community.” Preventing Chronic Disease. 5.3 (2008).
- Barriers to and facilitators of walking and bicycling to school were explored through 12 focus groups made up of fourth- and fifth-grade students and their parents who lived near their respective schools.
- The barriers and facilitators reported by parents and children generally fell into one of three categories: intrapersonal and interpersonal characteristics of parents and children, environmental characteristics of the neighborhood, and environmental and policy characteristics of the school.
- Findings indicate that a supportive environment is a necessary but insufficient condition to increase walking and biking to school.
- Initiatives to increase active school travel may need to include multiple levels of intervention to be effective.
Ahlport, Kathryn N., Linnan, Laura, Vaughn, Amber, Evenson, Kelly R. and Ward, Dianne S. “Barriers to and Facilitators of Walking and Bicycling to School: Formative Results From the Non-Motorized Travel Study.” Health Education Behavior. 35.2 (2008): 221-244.
“Estimating the Number of Children Who Can Walk to School” (2007)
- National estimates suggest that 14%-19% of children walk to school while state and local estimates suggest that 4% to 20% of children walk to school.
- The most commonly reported reason by parents why children do not walk to school is distance (62%).
- This study estimates the percentage of children in Georgia who live within a safe and reasonable walking distance from school.
- Results report that the estimated percentage of potential walkers is well below 50% for all but the 1-mile radius for early and late elementary school students.
- This study suggests that increasing the percentage of students who walk will require educational efforts and changes to the built environment.
Falb, Matthew D., Kanny, Dafna, Powell, Kenneth E., and Giarrusso, Anthony J. “Estimating the Number of Children Who Can Walk to School.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 33.4 (2007): 269-275.
- Although a number of environmental and policy interventions to promote physical activity are being widely used, there is sparse systematic information on the most effective approaches to guide population-wide interventions.
- The authors reviewed studies that addressed the following environmental and policy strategies to promote physical activity: community-scale urban design and land use policies and practices to increase physical activity; street-scale urban design and land use policies to increase physical activity; and transportation and travel policies and practices.
- These systematic reviews were based on the methods of the independent Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Exposure variables were classified according to the types of infrastructures/policies present in each study. Measures of physical activity behavior were used to assess effectiveness.
- Two interventions were effective in promoting physical activity (community-scale and street-scale urban design and land use policies and practices). Additional information about applicability, other effects, and barriers to implementation are provided for these interventions. Evidence is insufficient to assess transportation policy and practices to promote physical activity.
- Because community- and street-scale urban design and land-use policies and practices met the Community Guide criteria for being effective physical activity interventions, implementing these policies and practices at the community-level should be a priority of public health practitioners and community decision makers
Heath, G. W., R. C. Brownson, et al. (2006). The Effectiveness of Urban Design and Land Use and Transport Policies and Practices to Increase Physical Activity: A Systematic Review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 3(Suppl 1):S55–76.
- Financially disadvantaged populations are more likely to live in communities that do not support healthy choices. This paper investigates whether certain characteristics of the built environment are associated with obesity or coronary heart disease (CHD) risk among uninsured low-income women.
- Using a sample of 2001–2002 data from 2692 women enrolled in the WISEWOMAN program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study team performed regression analysis (conducted in January–April 2005) to estimate body mass index (BMI) and the log of 10-year CHD risk as a function of the built environment and socioecologic measures.
- For women living in an environment of maximum mixed land use (i.e., an environment more conducive to healthy living), BMI was lower by 2.60 kg/m2 and CHD risk was lower by 20% than for women living in single-use uniform environments (i.e., environments less conducive to healthy living). An additional fitness facility per 1000 residents was associated with BMI and CHD risk that were lower by 1.39 kg/m2 and 15.1%, respectively. Crime was positively associated with BMI and CHD risk, whereas neighborhood affluence was negatively associated. Living in more racially segregated areas was negatively associated with CHD risk among black, Hispanic, and Asian women and positively associated with CHD risk among American Indian women.
- The built environment and socioecologic characteristics of financially disadvantaged women were associated with BMI and CHD risk. More research is needed to understand the effects of racial segregation or acculturation on health for specific subpopulations.
Mobley LR, Root ED, Finkelstein EA, et al. “Environment, obesity, and cardiovascular disease risk in low-income women.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2006; 30(4): 327-332.
“Many Pathways from Land Use to Health” (2006)
- This article examines single-use, low-density land use patterns and reports that a 5% increase in neighborhood walkability is associated with:
- 32.1% more minutes devoted to physically active travel
- About one-quarter point lower BMI (0.228)
- 6.5% fewer vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita
- 5.6% fewer grams of Nitrogen Dioxide per capita
- 5.5% fewer grams of volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted per capita
Frank, Lawrence D., Sallis, James F., Conway, Terry L., Chapman, James E., Saelens, Brian E. and Bachman, William. “Many Pathways from Land Use to Health. Associations between Neighborhood Walkability and Active Transportation, Body Mass Index, and Air Quality.” Journal of the American Planning Association. 72.1 (2006): 75-87.
- This study evaluates and assesses 10 Safe Routes to School traffic improvement projects in terms of expected outcomes for pedestrian and bicycle safety as well as for amount of walking.
- Upon the completion of thorough data collection and analysis, this study recommends considering the following when planning and funding projects:
- Projects that fill sidewalk gaps near schools with moderate to high amounts of walking should be supported.
- Supported projects should include traffic control devices to regulate yielding at intersections where large volumes of vehicle and pedestrian traffic intersect.
- Implementation of Safe Routes to School may be more effective if construction is coupled with education campaigns to encourage student to walk or bicycle to school.
- Schools should be encouraged to leverage funds for traffic improvements by providing education that encourages students to walk and bicycle safely to and from school.
Boarnet, Marlon G., Day, Kristen, Anderson, Craig L., McMillan, Tracy and Alfonso, Mariela. “California’s Safe Routes to School Program: Impacts on Walking, Bicycling, and Pedestrian Safety.” Journal of the American Planning Association. 71.12 (2005): 301-317.
- This study evaluates the California Safe Routes to School legislation which provides funds for construction projects such as sidewalks, traffic lights, pedestrian crossing improvements, and bicycle paths.
- Results show that children who pass completed Safe Routes to School projects are more likely to show increases in walking or bicycle travel than are children who do not pass by projects (15% vs. 4%), supporting the effectiveness of Safe Routes to School construction projects in increasing walking or bicycling to school for children who pass these projects on their way to school.
Boarnet, Marlon G., Anderson, Craig L., Day, Kristen, McMillan, Tracy and Alfonzo, Mariela. “Evaluation of the California Safe Routes to School Legislation: Urban Form Changes and Children’s Active Transportation to School.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 28.2.2 (2005): 134-140.
- This article reviews what is known about the built environment and its relationship to physical activity.
- Research suggests that there is a relatively strong association between metropolitan development patterns and use of active travel modes such as walking and transit.
- Further relationships between the built environment and physical activity require more investigation.
Ewing, Reid. “Can the Physical Environment Determine Physical Activity Levels?” Exercise Sport Science Review. 33.2 (2005): 69-75.
- This article focuses on the relationship between the built environment, travel behavior, and public health outcomes.
Frank, Lawrence D. and Engelke, Peter. “Multiple Impacts of the Built Environment on Public Health: Walkable Places and the Exposure to Air Pollution.” International Regional Science Review. 28(2) (2005): 193-216.
- This is a thorough report on the relationship between the built environment and physical activity that reviews physical activity and health, long term trends affecting physical activity levels, current research on the built environment and physical activity, as well as current knowledge gaps.
“Does the Built Environment Influence Physical Activity?” (2005) Transportation Research Board Special Report 282. Committee on Physical Activity, Health, Transportation and Land Use. Washington D.C.
- This review uses the Transportation Research Information Services database to identify studies on engineering to reduce speed, separate pedestrians from vehicles, and increase visibility of pedestrians.
- Single-lane roundabouts, sidewalks, exclusive pedestrian signal phasing, pedestrian refuge islands, and increased intensity of roadway lighting yield the most effective increase in pedestrian safety.
- Results report that modifications of the built environment can substantially reduce the risk of pedestrian-vehicle crashes.
- More research is needed in the field of traffic engineering measures and effects on pedestrian safety.
Retting, Richard A., Ferguson, Susan A., and McCartt, Anne T. “A Review of Evidence-Based Traffic Engineering Measures Designed to Reduce Pedestrian-Motor Vehicle Crashes.” American Journal of Public Health. 93.9 (2003):1456-1463.
- School proximity to students matters. Students with shorter walk and bike times to school are more likely to walk or bike.
- The built environment influences travel choices. Students traveling through pedestrian-friendly environments are more likely to walk or bike.
"Travel and Environmental Implications of School Siting." October 2003. United States Environmental Protection Agency.