Measuring neighborhood walkable environments: A comparison of three approaches

Yen Cheng Chiang, William Sullivan, Linda Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple studies have revealed the impact of walkable environments on physical activity. Scholars attach considerable importance to leisure and health-related walking. Recent studies have used Google Street View as an instrument to assess city streets and walkable environments; however, no study has compared the validity of Google Street View assessments of walkable environment attributes to assessments made by local residents and compiled from field visits. In this study, we involved nearby residents and compared the extent to which Google Street View assessments of the walkable environment correlated with assessments from local residents and with field visits. We determined the assessment approaches (local resident or field visit assessments) that exhibited the highest agreement with Google Street View. One city with relatively high-quality walkable environments and one city with relatively low-quality walkable environments were examined, and three neighborhoods from each city were surveyed. Participants in each neighborhood used one of three approaches to assess the walkability of the environment: 15 local residents assessed the environment using a map, 15 participants made a field visit to assess the environment, and 15 participants used Google Street View to assess the environment, yielding a total of 90 valid samples for the two cities. Findings revealed that the three approaches to assessing neighborhood walkability were highly correlated for traffic safety, aesthetics, sidewalk quality, and physical barriers. Compared with assessments from participants making field visits, assessments by local residents were more highly correlated with Google Street View assessments. Google Street View provides a more convenient, low-cost, efficient, and safe approach to assess neighborhood walkability. The results of this study may facilitate future large-scale walkable environment surveys, effectively reduce expenses, and improve survey efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number593
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Neighborhood environment
  • Urban design
  • Virtual assessment
  • Walkability
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring neighborhood walkable environments: A comparison of three approaches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this