Auditing the Pedestrian Environment: A Brief Tool for Practitioners & Community Members

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September 2, 2015
By Jim Sallis
Auditing the Pedestrian Environment: A Brief Tool for Practitioners & Community Members

The Surgeon General announced the numerous and profound health benefits that Americans can gain simply by walking more. He made a Call to Action for more walking, but also for better walkability which means environmental conditions that makes walking safe, convenient, and enjoyable. "Walkability" is used in different ways. City planners refer to walkability as designing neighborhoods so people can walk from their homes to common destinations like shops and schools. There is much research showing that people of all ages do walk more for transportation in walkable neighborhoods, but the layout of communities is very difficult to change.

Some people say a neighborhood is "walkable" if there are sidewalks and pleasant landscaping, but we prefer to call this "streetscape design." There is not much research on how streetscape design, including  sidewalks, crossings, street trees, and bike facilities are related to physical activity, but these features are easier to modify. We know that in the US much of our built environment does not support safe and enjoyable walking, and communities are often unsure of which environmental changes to prioritize. Having practical measures of streetscape environments could help community members and city officials decide which streetscape features are most in need of improvement.MAPS-Mini Scoring

MAPS-Mini Audit Tool

The 15-item MAPS-Mini (Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes-Mini) tool is an audit, meaning someone walks down the street and completes a short survey for each block and street crossing. The items were chosen because they are modifiable, and most are related to physical activity. A newly-released study shows the MAPS-Mini total score is related to walking or cycling for transportation among children, adolescents, younger adults, and older adults. The environmental features with the strongest evidence are sidewalks, wheelchair ramps at curbs, street lights, planting space between roads and sidewalks, and benches. The tool is short enough to be practical for use by cities and community groups and is a reasonable substitute for the research instrument that is 8 times longer.

Practitioners and community members can use the data collected from the MAPS-Mini tool in a number of ways.

  • Think of MAPS-Mini items as a checklist of how to make your neighborhood better for walking.
  • Compare scores across neighborhoods and across cities.
  • Correlate with neighborhood demographics (e.g., Census data) to see how streetscapes compare across high- and low-income areas.
  • Create maps showing ratings of streets and overall neighborhoods.
  • Identify great streets and give them awards.
  • Pinpoint deficiencies and problems so they can be improved.
  • Organize community groups to assess whole neighborhoods, and use the results to advocate for improvements to city officials.
  • City planning and transportation departments can adopt MAPS-Mini to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of streetscapes across the cities. This evidence can be used as the basis for planning improvements.


Read the press advisory about MAPS-Mini.

Try out MAPS-Mini

You can get a copy of the MAPS-Mini tool here:


It is easy enough that you can print a few copies and try it out in your neighborhood. This could be a fun family activity.

For each copy of the tool, complete ratings for one street segment and one crossing. Add the score and divide by 21, which is the maximum score. This gives you a percentage score. The higher the score, the more people are likely to walk for transportation in this area.

In our study of several thousand people in 3 regions of the US, the average MAPS-Mini total score was 37%, showing that changes are needed to make the US a good place for walking. Very few scores were higher than 70%. See how your neighborhood scores.

MAPS Training and Technical Assistance

If your city or community group wants to adopt MAPS-Mini for use in a large area, our group can provide training and assistance with managing the results. We can consult with you about how to use the data to make your neighborhood or city healthier. Contact us.

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