Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Walking, Bicycling, and Urban Landscapes: Evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area

A 2003 working paper from Robert Cervero and Michael Duncan of University of California, Berkeley, has been added to the Research Center best practices. "Walking, Bicycling, and Urban Landscapes: Evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area" examines the question of what impact the built environment has on non-motorized travel (NMT) behavior.

"Our research reveals that urban landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area generally have a modest and sometimes statistically insignificant effect on walking and cycling" the reseasrchers found. "Although well-connected streets, small city blocks, mixed land uses, and close proximity to retail activities were shown to induce NMT, various exogenous factors, like topography, darkness, and rainfall, had far stronger influences."

The researchers found demographic characteristics of trip-makers were far stronger predictors of walking and cycling than the build environment, leading them to conclude, "[P]edestrian-friendly places suited to the taste preferences of socio-demographic groups might induce more physical activity over the long run through the process of residential self-selection than overt efforts to create compact, mixed-use, gridded-street neighborhoods all over suburbia."

Read the introduction and download the full report.