Walking to school provides the opportunity for increasing physical activity and for improving weight status in youth. Social ecological theory recognizes the link between supportive built environments and increased walking. To promote walking to school as a way to increase physical activity in youth, it is important to begin by assessing the presence and quality of sidewalks in school neighborhoods and then to advocate for improvements. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the assessment of the walkability of two school neighborhood areas, using an evaluation process, which is designed for use by lay community members, that produces maps to disseminate the assessment findings to decision makers. A validated and reliable audit instrument was used to assess the walkability of 114 road segments in the immediately adjacent student enrollment areas surrounding two elementary schools. Ten variables characterizing the transportation and pedestrian environment were measured and used to calculate a walkability score for each road segment. Color-coded maps of the walkability scores for each road segment were created to display the patterns of walkability. Sidewalks were absent in 67 percent and 75 percent of the road segments surrounding the two schools, respectively. The maps reveal that the very few suitable roads for walking are isolated by networks of streets with no sidewalks.
• This study demonstrates the use of walkability audit instruments as a feasible method of community assessment and, along with the maps it produces, provides a practical system of assessment and advocacy for leveraging change to improve the walkability in school neighborhoods.
Heather M. Seagle, MPH, is Doctoral Student in the Department of Planning, Policy, and Design at the University of California, Irvine.
Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS, is Assistant Professor in the Division of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.
Katrina D. DuBose, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.
Corresponding Author: Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS, MPH Program, Hardy Building, Division of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, 600 Moye Blvd, Greenville, NC 27834 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We thank Tim Crews for his participation in data collection. We also thank Kyle Garner and Christian Lockamy of the City of Greenville for the traffic and GIS data they provided. Finally, we thank Dr Christopher J. Mansfield and Dr Omur Cinar Elci for their invaluable help, support, and input on this study.