Accessibility and Health: Towards Walkability Tools for Planning Practice

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


There is increasing research interest in how we can most effectively intervene in the built environment to change behaviours such as physical activity and improve health. Much of this work has focussed around the concept of walkability and the identification of those attributes of our cities that encourage pedestrian activity, including density, connectivity and the aesthetic of the urban realm (Saelens et al 2003, Frank et al 2010). Much of the existing research has clarified the strength of the relationships between various environmental attributes and the differential impact on different demographic groups (e.g. Panter et al 2011). This has not yet been effectively translated into tools to help integrate the concepts of walkability into decision-making by statutory authorities that can help shape the spatial development and delivery of public services which can support more active lifestyles. A key reason for this has been that standard models for transport planning and accessibility are based on networks of road infrastructure, which provides a weak basis for modelling pedestrian accessibility (Chin et al 2008).

This paper reports the findings of Knowledge Exchange project funded by UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ES/J010588/1) and partners including Belfast and Derry City Councils and Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency, the Department of Regional Development and Belfast Healthy Cities, that has attempted to address this problem. This project has mapped city-wide footpath networks and used these to assist partner organisations in developing the evidence base for making decisions on public services based on health impacts and pedestrian access. The paper describes the tool developed, uses a number of examples to highlight its impact on areas of decision-making and evaluates the benefits of further integrating walkability into planning and development practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 18 Jul 2013
EventJoint AESOP-ACSP Congress - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 15 Jul 201319 Jul 2013


ConferenceJoint AESOP-ACSP Congress


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