Safer streets can have positive physical and emotional impact in an urban environment. The physical environment and condition of sidewalks and crosswalks can either enhance or impair pedestrian safety in the city. While elsewhere we look at the links between walkability and physical activity, researching safe streets involves focusing on physical injury. Often overlooked is the emotional environment that the city’s streets promote. How pedestrians perceive their safety has important links to the mental health of urban residents.
NEIGHBORHOOD WALKABILITY AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN NYC
Drs. Andrew Rundle, Gina Lovasi, and colleagues in the Built Environmental and Health Research Group have been collaborating with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to use GPS and accelerometer data to study how neighborhood built and social environments influence pedestrian behavior and overall physical activity. They find that higher neighborhood walkability is significantly associated with higher levels of physical activity among residents of New York City.
SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL PROGRAM
Drs. Peter Muennig and Guohua Li evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a child pedestrian safety program in New York City called the the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. Their analysis considered societal costs, changes in injury rates, and long-term savings in medical costs, disability, and death rates. The researchers found that SRTS was associated with an overall net societal benefit of $230 million and 2,055 quality-adjusted life years gained in New York City.
USING GOOGLE STREET VIEW TO MEASURE DISORDER
Drs. Gina Lovasi and Andrew Rundle are involved in a recently published study that assessed a measure of physical disorder derived from virtual street audit data in four different American cities. The researchers studied 1,826 city blocks on Google Street View (with the help of the Computer Assisted Neighborhood Visual Assessment System) for validated indicators of physical disorder such as litter and graffiti, and then compared the results with U.S. Census data indicators. They found that their measure based on the Google Street View data had a high internal consistency reliability score, and was positively correlated with unemployment and housing vacancy based on the census data. This study is very encouraging for use of virtual street audit data in scientific research, providing an inexpensive and reliable practice for measuring neighborhood disorder.