Neighborhood walkability refers to characteristics of a neighborhood that can influence walking for recreation and transportation purposes (Brownson et al., 2004; Hoehner et al., 2005; Cerin et al., 2006). Walking is the most common form of physical activity and, as a result, is the focus of considerable research (Owen et al., 2004). Neighborhood walkability can be measured subjectively through residents’ perceptions or objectively through environmental audits, or for some features, geographic information system databases (Pikora et al., 2002; Hoehner et al., 2005; Day et al., 2006). See reviews by Owen et al. (2004) and Humpel et al. (2002) for summaries of recent research on physical activity and physical environments.
Measuring the built environment is complex because of the large number of dimensions that could be assessed and because different features of the environment vary in importance by behavior. In a study of walking for transportation and recreation, Hoehner et al. (2005) found that neighborhood features associated with walking for transportation differed from those associated with walking for recreation.