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Neighborhood sampling: how many streets must an auditor walk?

Tracy E McMillan1, Catherine Cubbin2, Barbara Parmenter3, Ashley V Medina4 and Rebecca E Lee4*

Author Affiliations

1 PPH Partners, 7710 W Sweetwater Tr, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA

2 School of Social Work, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station G1800, Austin, TX 78712, USA

3 Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University, 97 Talbot Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA

4 Texas Obesity Research Center, Department of Health and Human Performance, University of Houston, 3855 Holman St, Garrison Gymnasium Rm 104, Houston, TX 77004, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2010, 7:20  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-7-20

Published: 12 March 2010


This study tested the representativeness of four street segment sampling protocols using the Pedestrian Environment Data Scan (PEDS) in eleven neighborhoods surrounding public housing developments in Houston, TX. The following four street segment sampling protocols were used (1) all segments, both residential and arterial, contained within the 400 meter radius buffer from the center point of the housing development (the core) were compared with all segments contained between the 400 meter radius buffer and the 800 meter radius buffer (the ring); all residential segments in the core were compared with (2) 75% (3) 50% and (4) 25% samples of randomly selected residential street segments in the core. Analyses were conducted on five key variables: sidewalk presence; ratings of attractiveness and safety for walking; connectivity; and number of traffic lanes. Some differences were found when comparing all street segments, both residential and arterial, in the core to the ring. Findings suggested that sampling 25% of residential street segments within the 400 m radius of a residence sufficiently represents the pedestrian built environment. Conclusions support more cost effective environmental data collection for physical activity research.