Publication: The right path to health: the walkability of a European medium sized city called Guimaraes
The relationship between the act of walking and city space has been over the years object of numerous approaches both by academics and researchers. Nowadays there is an increase in empirical research, above all from areas such as public health, urban planning and transportation, that results from the application of measurement instruments both of the built environment (BE) and of walking, understood here as a form of physical activity (PA) with recognised benefits for health. The exploration of the BE-PA relationship is based on validated instruments that seek to clarify this equation. Developed in countries like USA, Canada or Australia these are less common in the European context. This paper intends to demonstrate that the combined use of information resulting from spatial audits and population surveys are important tools in the planning of proximity of medium sized cities like the case study, Guimarães, thus incorporating the human dimension in the planning process as advocated by Jan Gehl. The measurement instruments developed in recent years are diversified, containing objective and subjective measures. This research was based on the following BE audit tools: the Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan; the Analytic Audit Tool; the Irvine-Minnesota Inventory; the Measurement Instrument for Urban Design Qualities; the Pedestrian Environment Data Scan; and the Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes; incorporating too, the urban elements referred by Gehl. Despite the study aim focus on the development and confirmation of objective measures, two subjective tools were observed: the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale because is the most used internationally; and the Assessing Levels of Physical Activity for being that developed for the evaluation of environments for PA in Europe. In these studies, PA is usually measured using internationally validated questionnaires, such as the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Thus, after identifying the city areas according to their degree of walkability, assessment tools of the variables to be explored were applied. So, a new audit tool was developed having as reference the above mentioned ones, Gehl theories, and the urban context found. With regards the inhabitants survey, PA evaluation questions were based on IPAQ, being reformulated to better understanding by respondents. Given the relatively small scale of the city of Guimarães respondents were asked to indicate on a map appended to the survey the routes they made to six utilitarian destinations and six leisure destinations in order to assess both transportation and leisure walking. The routes made by the subjects were mapped and correct destinations identified, being that, their features were evaluated according to the items of the developed audit tool. The assessments were made using CAD surveys, orthophotomaps, Google Street View and by direct observation through site visits. The developed audit tool presents itself as an instrument that can be easily replicated in similar contexts. Data collected allow the analysis of the correlation between spatial variables, reported walking levels and health indicators, thus identifying the elements that have the greatest relevance in this equation.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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