Environmental Audit Tools
Tools to measure the walkability and cycleability of the local environment
Achieving sufficient physical activity has physical, social and mental health benefits. Current recommendations suggest that adults should accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all days of the week. These recommendations also emphasise ‘active living’ which is a way of life in which activity is incorporated into daily activities and routines, rather than achieving regular bouts of vigorous physical activity.
There is a growing body of research investigating the links between physical activity and the environment in which people live, work and play. Planning and designing communities so that they support, facilitate and encourage active living is becoming an important strategy to increase participation in physical activity. Assessing a community’s physical environment, especially aspects related to walking and cycling has the potential to inform and direct aspects of the planning process.
These fact sheets provide background information on physical activity and active living as well as highlighting a selection of audit tools for those wanting to assess or evaluate aspects of the environment. They have been developed for those working on physical activity projects and initiatives with an environmental component or focus. These fact sheets provide relevant information and resources for public health workers, urban planners, local government, community and non government organisations.
This is not an exhaustive list of audit tools but rather a selection of those designed to date. Many have been developed for specific uses and may require modification. Those seeking to include an audit of the environment as a component of a project may wish to pilot a number of tools before deciding which is the most appropriate for the intended application.
Current Available Fact Sheets
- The Environment and Active Living
- Assessing the Physical Environment
- Modifying Audit Tools
- Involving the Community in Assessing the Environment
- Bikeability Checklist for Local Government
- Healthy Urban Environments Site Assessment Audit
- Irvine-Minnesota Inventory
- Neighbourhood Environment Walkability Survey
- Pedestrian Safety and Bicycle Safety Audit Checklists
- SPACES Instrument
- “St Louis” Tool
- Walkability and Bikeability Checklists
Useful Resources and Links
The University of Western Australia’s RESIDEntial project is an example of an approach to evaluating the impact of a state government sub-division design code (“Liveable Neighbourhoods Guidelines”) on walking, cycling and public transport use. The project is a longitudinal study.
People building homes in 76 new housing estates were invited to participate in the study. These housing estates included all or many of the Liveable Neighbourhoods planning and design principles. Baseline data were collected before study participants moved into their new homes, and follow-up surveys are to be undertaken at one and three years after they move in. Recreational and transport-related walking and cycling undertaken both inside and outside the neighbourhood is measured and a pedometer worn for 7 days. Factors influencing choice of neighbourhood were also collected at baseline.
To assist in assessing the walkability of the new local neighbourhood a “walkability” index using geographic information systems (GIS) has been developed. This index takes into account the connectivity of street networks, mixed use planning and density. It will also be used to assess how well the Liveable Neighbourhood Guidelines have been implemented.
Premiers Council for Active Living
The Premier’s Council for Active Living (PCAL) is the primary inter-sectoral body for promoting physical activity in NSW. PCAL aims to build and strengthen the physical and social environments in which communities engage in active living. It comprises senior representatives from across government, industry and the community sector. PCAL was established in 2004 and follows on from the NSW Physical Activity Taskforce, which met between 1996 and 2002.
Active Living Research
Active Living Research supports research to examine relationships among characteristics of natural and built environments, public and private policies, and personal levels of physical activity. It aims to increase knowledge about active living by supporting research to identify environmental factors and policies with potential to substantially increase levels of physical activity among Americans of all ages, incomes and ethnic backgrounds.
Active Living Leadership
Active Living Leadership works with governments. The program is designed to provide support for governments as they create and promote policies, programs and places that enable active living to improve the health, well-being and vitality of communities.
Active Living Resource Centre
The Active Living Resource Centre provides information and resources for consumers and professionals to help them make their local communities walkable, bike friendly and safe for children to travel to and from school by active transport.
Alberta Centre for Active Living
The Alberta Centre for Active Living is a key advocate of physical activity for all Albertans and a primary source of research and education on physical activity for practitioners, organisations, and decision-makers. The Centre's mandate is to improve the health and quality of life of Albertans through physical activity. The centre is a member of the Coalition for Active Living and the Alberta Healthy Living Network.
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