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Urban walkability considering pedestrians’ perceptions of the built environment: a 10-year review and a case study in a medium-sized city in Latin America


  • Julian Arellana
  • María Saltarín
  • Ana Margarita Larrañaga
  • Vilma Alvarez
  • César Augusto Henao


Numerous methodologies measuring walkability have been developed over the last years. This paper reviews the Walkability Index (WI) literature of the last decade (2009–2018) and highlights some limitations in the current approaches. Only a few studies have evaluated walkability in Latin America, mainly in big cities but not in medium and small-sized cities in the region, which present their own urbanisation dynamics, security issues, sidewalk invasion problems, and poor planning. Furthermore, most WIs in the literature use objective mesoscale variables to assess walkability in a given area. This paper contributes to filling these gaps by generating new evidence from a medium-sized city in Latin America to question if characteristics of the built environment encourage walking trips, as found in the literature, are transferable among regions. The study also proposes a novel index comprised of microscale and mesoscale built environment variables to assess walkability using virtual tools and considering users’ perceptions. The WI estimation relies on ranking probability models. The results of the case study suggest that subjective Security and Traffic Safety are the most crucial factors influencing walkability in these kind of cities, which is different from what is found in the literature from cities in developed countries where Sidewalk Condition and Attractiveness are the most important factors. Security appeared to be strongly associated with a subjective dimension, represented by the fear of crime or perceived risk for crime, instead of the actual occurrence of crimes. This result evidences the importance of the physical attributes of the real world and how they are captured, judged, and processed by pedestrians. Then, regional transferability of WIs needs to be done carefully. Finally, results in this paper highlight the importance of microscale built environment characteristics in the WI formulation in these cities. Results are in line with other research in some cities of the region, which found that microscale variables such as pavement quality and presence of obstacles on the sidewalks are relevant components to promote walkability.

Suggested Citation

  • Julian Arellana & María Saltarín & Ana Margarita Larrañaga & Vilma Alvarez & César Augusto Henao, 2020. "Urban walkability considering pedestrians’ perceptions of the built environment: a 10-year review and a case study in a medium-sized city in Latin America," Transport Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(2), pages 183-203, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:transr:v:40:y:2020:i:2:p:183-203
    DOI: 10.1080/01441647.2019.1703842

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    Cited by:

    1. Arellana, Julián & Saltarín, María & Larrañaga, Ana Margarita & González, Virginia I. & Henao, César Augusto, 2020. "Developing an urban bikeability index for different types of cyclists as a tool to prioritise bicycle infrastructure investments," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 310-334.
    2. Hamid Motieyan & Farnaz Kaviari & Nikrouz Mostofi, 2022. "Quantifying walking capability: a novel aggregated index based on spatial perspective and analyses," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(2), pages 483-503, April.
    3. Márquez, Luis & Soto, Jose J., 2021. "Integrating perceptions of safety and bicycle theft risk in the analysis of cycling infrastructure preferences," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 285-301.
    4. Gan, Zuoxian & Yang, Min & Zeng, Qingcheng & Timmermans, Harry J.P., 2021. "Associations between built environment, perceived walkability/bikeability and metro transfer patterns," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 171-187.
    5. Nabipour, Mohammad & Rosenberg, Mark W. & Nasseri, Seyed Hadi, 2022. "The built environment, networks design, and safety features: An analysis of pedestrian commuting behavior in intermediate-sized cities," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 14-23.
    6. Guzman, Luis A. & Arellana, Julian & Alvarez, Vilma, 2020. "Confronting congestion in urban areas: Developing Sustainable Mobility Plans for public and private organizations in Bogotá," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 321-335.
    7. Arellana, Julián & Alvarez, Vilma & Oviedo, Daniel & Guzman, Luis A., 2021. "Walk this way: Pedestrian accessibility and equity in Barranquilla and Soledad, Colombia," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    8. Lorea Mendiola & Pilar González, 2021. "Urban Development and Sustainable Mobility: A Spatial Analysis in the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Area," Land, MDPI, vol. 10(2), pages 1-23, February.
    9. Hatamzadeh, Yaser, 2021. "Working commuters’ tendency toward a travel pattern with potentially more walking: Examining the relative influence of personal and environmental measures," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    10. Shilpa Dogra & Nicholas O’Rourke & Michael Jenkins & Daniel Hoornweg, 2021. "Integrated Urban Mobility for Our Health and the Climate: Recommended Approaches from an Interdisciplinary Consortium," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(22), pages 1-12, November.
    11. Guzman, Luis A. & Peña, Javier & Carrasco, Juan Antonio, 2020. "Assessing the role of the built environment and sociodemographic characteristics on walking travel distances in Bogotá," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 88(C).
    12. Ismaïl Saadi & Roger Aganze & Mehdi Moeinaddini & Zohreh Asadi-Shekari & Mario Cools, 2021. "A Participatory Assessment of Perceived Neighbourhood Walkability in a Small Urban Environment," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(1), pages 1-16, December.
    13. Poklewski-Koziełł, Damian & Dudzic-Gyurkovich, Karolina & Duarte, Carlos Marmolejo, 2023. "Investigating urban form, and walkability measures in the new developments. The case study of Garnizon in Gdansk," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).
    14. Vallejo-Borda, Jose Agustin & Giesen, Ricardo & Basnak, Paul & Reyes, José P. & Mella Lira, Beatriz & Beck, Matthew J. & Hensher, David A. & Ortúzar, Juan de Dios, 2022. "Characterising public transport shifting to active and private modes in South American capitals during the COVID-19 pandemic," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 186-205.
    15. Umer Mansoor & Mohammad Tamim Kashifi & Fazal Rehman Safi & Syed Masiur Rahman, 2022. "A review of factors and benefits of non-motorized transport: a way forward for developing countries," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 1560-1582, February.
    16. Soongbong Lee & Myungjoo Han & Kyoungah Rhee & Bumjoon Bae, 2021. "Identification of Factors Affecting Pedestrian Satisfaction toward Land Use and Street Type," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(19), pages 1-14, September.
    17. Massingue, Suzanna Allen & Oviedo, Daniel, 2021. "Walkability and the Right to the city: A snapshot critique of pedestrian space in Maputo, Mozambique," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    18. Duncan, Michael, 2023. "The influence of pedestrian plans on walk commuting in US municipalities," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 172(C).

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