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Georgia Institute of Technology

Walking on Campus: Correlates & Web Tools

Craig Zimring, Ph.D.

Project Description

This proposal explores whether design characteristics of campus paths and destinations predict walking and to refine rigorous and cost-effective measures of design characteristics and of walking behavior. Specifically the role of demographic factors in predicting walking will be examined. If the design influences on walking can be found, this work can be highly generalizable to government, corporate, university and residential campuses. Campuses are particularly fruitful foci for design interventions. There are thousands of campuses and they are often under the control of a single organization, and changes can be made in months or years, as opposed to cities that require decades to make significant changes. However, little research is available linking characteristics of large building sites such as campuses to walking behavior. A two-phase study is proposed. In the first phase campus use will be refined with several existing environmental measures developed at Georgia Tech and elsewhere. These measures provide rigorous quantitative descriptions of characteristics of walking paths and of destinations. A web-based questionnaire and database tool called WebWalk that will allow participants to quickly and accurately report their walking patterns and for these patterns to be linked to environmental characteristics will be developed. Phase I involves developing and pilot-testing these tools. In Phase II three case studies of business campuses that have explicitly attempted to encourage walking and physical activity will be conducted. Each case study will include qualitative interviews with staff and management, onsite measurement of paths and destinations, a sample of participants who will complete WebWalk, and counts of observed walking behavior to further validate WebWalk. The primary outcome is walking behavior. As to how environmental characteristics predict frequency of use of different routes and destinations will be explored along with different demographic factors such as age, ethnicity and disability affect the decision to walk and the destinations chosen. The multidisciplinary nature of the research team and advisory committee will allow the results to be applied quickly to environmental design and policy as well as to epidemiology and clinical applied physiology.

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Last Reviewed: August 16, 2007