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Assessing the Walkability of the Workplace: A New Audit Tool

Abstract

Purpose. Walking can be incorporated into most people’s daily routines if the process is made convenient by a well-designed built environment. Walkability rarely is assessed in the workplace, where adults spend much of their time.

Methods. From existing tools, we developed an instrument to audit walkability at a single government agency’s facilities, which were located in multiple states. We used a fivepoint scale to evaluate nine elements of walkability: pedestrian facilities, pedestrian-vehicle conflicts, crosswalks, route maintenance, walkway width, roadway buffer, universal accessibility, aesthetics, and shade. Weighted scores ranged from 20 to 39 (poor), to 40 to 69 (fair), to 70 to 100 (good).

Results. Of 79 walking route segments surveyed on 10 agency campuses, 34% were rated poor, 32% fair, and 34% good. Repeat assessment of 20 walking route segments by three independent observers yielded similar scores.

Conclusion. Facility planners may find this walkability instrument useful in identifying and eliminating barriers to convenient walking opportunities in workplaces such as office parks and university campuses.

Introduction

Despite the numerous health benefits, most Americans fail to achieve the Surgeon General’s recommended level of at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most—preferably all—days of the week.1,2 Walking is a physical activity in which most people can participate because it requires no special skills or equipment and easily can be made routine, particularly if used for transportation. The creation or enhancement of access to places for physical activity can increase the percentage of people engaging in such activity.3 Because most adults spend much of their time in workplace settings, workplace designs that encourage walking for transportation and recreation may help more Americans achieve recommended physical activity levels. Walkability audit tools are used to assess pedestrian facilities and to identify specific improvements that would make routes more attractive to pedestrians. After finding that existing audit tools are not well suited to workplace settings, we developed a new audit tool to assess those characteristics of physical facilities that affect walking for transportation and recreation in workplace settings, such as office parks, university campuses, and light industrial facilities. Such audits can be used to help make workplace facility planners and managers more aware of how their decisions affect the health and safety of employees.