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There has been considerable growth in public health research investigating the influence of the built environment on physical activity. Simultaneously, transport and planning professionals have been promoting a change from inactive to active transport modes to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. A core concept in both areas of research is ‘walkability’. Walkable areas are varied and professional opinion on the level of walkability of an area can be contradictory. This study used a researcher-developed questionnaire to assess the environmental factors that influence walking behaviour. Professionals working within the areas of planning, architecture, politics, advocacy, public health and engineering were invited to complete the online questionnaire. All professions agreed that the presence of local quality functional walking routes, the availability of numerous destinations within walking distance and the perception of safety were all key factors that influence the walkability of an area. However, professions disagreed on the role of aesthetic factors; visual interest along a route was given a higher priority by some professions than others. It was concluded that different professions have different understandings of the concept of walkability, and future research should employ qualitative methodologies to investigate these differences further.
Fitzsimons, L., Nelson, N.M., Leyden, K., Wickham, J. and Woods, C. (2010). Walkability means what, to whom? Difficulties and challenges in defining walkability. 1st Annual Conference of the Irish Transport Research Network School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering, University College Dublin, 31st August – 1st September .