Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Correlates of walking and cycling for transport and recreation: factor structure, reliability and behavioural associations of the perceptions of the environment in the neighbourhood scale (PENS)

Emma J Adams1*, Anna Goodman2, Shannon Sahlqvist3, Fiona C Bull4, David Ogilvie5 and on behalf of the iConnect consortium

Author Affiliations

1 British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

2 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

3 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

4 Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

5 Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit and UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013, 10:87  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-87

Published: 2 July 2013



Emerging evidence suggests that walking and cycling for different purposes such as transport or recreation may be associated with different attributes of the physical environment. Few studies to date have examined these behaviour-specific associations, particularly in the UK. This paper reports on the development, factor structure and test-retest reliability of a new scale assessing perceptions of the environment in the neighbourhood (PENS) and the associations between perceptions of the environment and walking and cycling for transport and recreation.


A new 13-item scale was developed for assessing adults’ perceptions of the environment in the neighbourhood (PENS). Three sets of analyses were conducted using data from two sources. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were used to identify a set of summary environmental variables using data from the iConnect baseline survey (n = 3494); test-retest reliability of the individual and summary environmental items was established using data collected in a separate reliability study (n = 166); and multivariable logistic regression was used to determine the associations of the environmental variables with walking for transport, walking for recreation, cycling for transport and cycling for recreation, using iConnect baseline survey data (n = 2937).


Four summary environmental variables (traffic safety, supportive infrastructure, availability of local amenities and social order), one individual environmental item (street connectivity) and a variable encapsulating general environment quality were identified for use in further analyses. Intraclass correlations of these environmental variables ranged from 0.44 to 0.77 and were comparable to those seen in other similar scales. After adjustment for demographic and other environmental factors, walking for transport was associated with supportive infrastructure, availability of local amenities and general environment quality; walking for recreation was associated with supportive infrastructure; and cycling for transport was associated only with street connectivity. There was limited evidence of any associations between environmental attributes and cycling for recreation.


PENS is acceptable as a short instrument for assessing perceptions of the urban environment. Previous findings that different attributes of the environment may be associated with different behaviours are confirmed. Policy action to create supportive environments may require a combination of environmental improvements to promote walking and cycling for different purposes.

Walking; Cycling; Transport; Recreation; Urban environment; Measurement; Reliability