Presentation at the 2005 Active Living Research Annual Conference
Shared-use urban trails hold promise for the facilitation of physical activity. Few studies have tested the association between landscape and social features of trails, urban design and social environmental features of surrounding neighborhoods, and physical activity. The relationship between trail use and physical activity has also received limited study. These critical information gaps limit transportation planning, recreation facility design, and health promotion efforts.
This study will (a) identify the environmental features of multi-use urban trails and adjacent neighborhoods that influence people to engage in physical activity, and (b) determine whether levels of urban trail use are related to levels of physical activity among residents in nearby communities. The following specific aims are proposed:
1. Identify three shared-use trails in different urban areas of the United States using criteria that ensure diversity both across and within trail sites.
2. Conduct GIS analysis and an observational assessment of each trail to determine: (a) physical characteristics of the trail, (b) trailside urban design features, and (c) social/demographic characteristics of the surrounding communities.
3. Conduct a trail count to estimate trail use and the characteristics of trail users.
4. Recruit 600 participants to wear accelerometers for 7 days and to complete self-report measures of physical activity, trail use, and perceptions of the trail and neighborhood environments.
5. Conduct statistical analyses to address the research questions. Use GIS visualization and mapping techniques to display key results.
6. Produce a report with specific recommendations to policy makers, urban design professionals, and researchers.
Three 15-20 mile long multi-use urban trails will be selected for use in this study. Trail and surrounding neighborhood attributes will be mapped using GIS (ESRI ArcView 8.3), with Census 2000, transportation network, and other social and economic information, satellite data, and aerial photography. Each trail will be divided into 0.50 mile segments, characterized by attributes that fall under physical characteristics of the trail landscape, trailside neighborhood urban design characteristics, and trailside neighborhood characteristics. This will generate 90-120 segments across all three trails. We will then conduct a count of trail visitors in 30 segments per trail to estimate the volume of trail use, the type of use (e.g., biking), and the gender and age tier of trail users. The Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan audit will be completed on every trail segment, providing objective ratings of trail attributes. A sample of adults will be identified from the neighborhoods within a 2-mile buffer zone of the trail. From this random sample, a group of 600 adults will be recruited to keep daily activity logs and participate in an accelerometry study. Participants will wear Actigraph accelerometers for 7 days. Participants will also complete self-report measures of physical activity, trail use, perceived trail and neighborhood characteristics (e.g., safety), and demographics. The data will be visualized using GIS tools and analyzed using multiple regression techniques. The regression analyses will account for the spatial relationships and the multi-level nature of the study design.