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Validation of Walk Score® for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas
Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02115, USA
Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, Harvard School of Public Health, 401 Park Drive, Landmark Center, 4th Floor West, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Department of Geography, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, 105 Wilkeson Quad, Buffalo, NY 14261, USA
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 401 Park Drive, Landmark Center, 4th Floor West, Boston, MA 02215, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 September 2011; in revised form: 27 October 2011 / Accepted: 1 November 2011 / Published: 4 November 2011
Abstract: Neighborhood walkability can influence physical activity. We evaluated the validity of Walk Score® for assessing neighborhood walkability based on GIS (objective) indicators of neighborhood walkability with addresses from four US metropolitan areas with several street network buffer distances (i.e., 400-, 800-, and 1,600-meters). Address data come from the YMCA-Harvard After School Food and Fitness Project, an obesity prevention intervention involving children aged 5–11 years and their families participating in YMCA-administered, after-school programs located in four geographically diverse metropolitan areas in the US (n = 733). GIS data were used to measure multiple objective indicators of neighborhood walkability. Walk Scores were also obtained for the participant’s residential addresses. Spearman correlations between Walk Scores and the GIS neighborhood walkability indicators were calculated as well as Spearman correlations accounting for spatial autocorrelation. There were many significant moderate correlations between Walk Scores and the GIS neighborhood walkability indicators such as density of retail destinations and intersection density (p < 0.05). The magnitude varied by the GIS indicator of neighborhood walkability. Correlations generally became stronger with a larger spatial scale, and there were some geographic differences. Walk Score® is free and publicly available for public health researchers and practitioners. Results from our study suggest that Walk Score® is a valid measure of estimating certain aspects of neighborhood walkability, particularly at the 1600-meter buffer. As such, our study confirms and extends the generalizability of previous findings demonstrating that Walk Score is a valid measure of estimating neighborhood walkability in multiple geographic locations and at multiple spatial scales.
Keywords: neighborhood walkability; GIS; Walk Score®; validity; multi-city
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Duncan, D.T.; Aldstadt, J.; Whalen, J.; Melly, S.J.; Gortmaker, S.L. Validation of Walk Score® for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8, 4160-4179.
Duncan DT, Aldstadt J, Whalen J, Melly SJ, Gortmaker SL. Validation of Walk Score® for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2011; 8(11):4160-4179.
Duncan, Dustin T.; Aldstadt, Jared; Whalen, John; Melly, Steven J.; Gortmaker, Steven L. 2011. "Validation of Walk Score® for Estimating Neighborhood Walkability: An Analysis of Four US Metropolitan Areas." Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 8, no. 11: 4160-4179.