neighborhood walkability and active travel (walking and cycling) in new york city

Urban planners have suggested that built environment characteristics can support active travel (walking and cycling) and reduce sedentary behavior. This study assessed whether engagement in active travel is associated with neighborhood walkability measured for zip codes in New York City. Data were analyzed on engagement in active travel and the frequency of walking or biking ten blocks or more in the past month, from 8,064 respondents to the New York City 2003 Community Health Survey (CHS). A neighborhood walkability scale that measures: residential, intersection, and subway stop density; land use mix; and the ratio of retail building floor area to retail land area was calculated for each zip code. Data were analyzed using zero-inflated negative binomial regression incorporating survey sample weights and adjusting for respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics. Overall, 44 % of respondents reported no episodes of active travel and among those who reported any episode, the mean number was 43.2 episodes per month. Comparing the 75th to the 25th percentile of zip code walkability, the odds ratio for reporting zero episodes of active travel was 0.71 (95 % CI 0.61, 0.83) and the exponentiated beta coefficient for the count of episodes of active travel was 1.13 (95 % CI 1.06, 1.21). Associations between lower walkability and reporting zero episodes of active travel were significantly stronger for non-Hispanic Whites as compared to non-Hispanic Blacks and to Hispanics and for those living in higher income zip codes. The results suggest that neighborhood walkability is associated with higher engagement in active travel.

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