Health Promotion Journal of Australia Health Promotion Journal of Australia Society
Journal of the Australian Health Promotion Association
RESEARCH FRONT (Open Access)

Developing a research and practice tool to measure walkability: a demonstration project

Billie Giles-Corti A B F G , Gus Macaulay A , Nick Middleton C , Bryan Boruff B F , Fiona Bull B F , Iain Butterworth D , Hannah Badland A F , Suzanne Mavoa A F , Rebecca Roberts A F and Hayley Christian B E F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A McCaughey VicHealth Centre for Community Wellbeing, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Level 5, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3010, Australia.

B Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C NJM Spatial, 11 Leon Road, Dalkeith, WA 6009, Australia.

D North West Region Victorian Department of Health, 145 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Vic. 3065, Australia.

E Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia, PO Box 855, West Perth, WA 6872, Australia.

F NHMRC CRE in Healthy Liveable Communities, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Level 5, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Vic. 3010, Australia.

G Corresponding author. Email: b.giles-corti@unimelb.edu.au

Health Promotion Journal of Australia 25(3) 160-166 https://doi.org/10.1071/HE14050
Submitted: xxx xxx 2014  Accepted: xxx xxx 2014   Published: 2014

Abstract

Issue addressed: Growing evidence shows that higher-density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods encourage active transport, including transport-related walking. Despite widespread recognition of the benefits of creating more walkable neighbourhoods, there remains a gap between the rhetoric of the need for walkability and the creation of walkable neighbourhoods. Moreover, there is little objective data to benchmark the walkability of neighbourhoods within and between Australian cities in order to monitor planning and design intervention progress and to assess built environment and urban policy interventions required to achieve increased walkability. This paper describes a demonstration project that aimed to develop, trial and validate a ‘Walkability Index Tool’ that could be used by policy makers and practitioners to assess the walkability of local areas; or by researchers to access geospatial data assessing walkability. The overall aim of the project was to develop an automated geospatial tool capable of creating walkability indices for neighbourhoods at user-specified scales.

Methods: The tool is based on open-source software architecture, within the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) framework, and incorporates key sub-component spatial measures of walkability (street connectivity, density and land use mix).

Results: Using state-based data, we demonstrated it was possible to create an automated walkability index. However, due to the lack of availability of consistent of national data measuring land use mix, at this stage it has not been possible to create a national walkability measure. The next stage of the project is to increase useability of the tool within the AURIN portal and to explore options for alternative spatial data sources that will enable the development of a valid national walkability index.

Conclusion: AURIN’s open-source Walkability Index Tool is a first step in demonstrating the potential benefit of a tool that could measure walkability across Australia. It also demonstrates the value of making accurate spatial data available for research purposes.

So what?: There remains a gap between urban policy and practice, in terms of creating walkable neighbourhoods. When fully implemented, AURIN’s walkability tool could be used to benchmark Australian cities against which planning and urban design decisions could be assessed to monitor progress towards achieving policy goals. Making cleaned data readily available for research purposes through a common portal could also save time and financial resources.


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