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The association between sidewalk length and walking for different purposes in established neighborhoods

Gavin R McCormack1*, Alan Shiell1, Billie Giles-Corti2, Stephen Begg3, J Lennert Veerman4, Elizabeth Geelhoed5, Anura Amarasinghe5 and JC Herb Emery1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2N1N4

2 McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

3 Research and Economic Analysis Unit, Queensland Health, Queensland 4000, Australia

4 School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia

5 School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth 6009, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:92  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-92

Published: 1 August 2012



Walking in neighborhood environments is undertaken for different purposes including for transportation and leisure. We examined whether sidewalk availability was associated with participation in, and minutes of neighborhood-based walking for transportation (NWT) and recreation (NWR) after controlling for neighborhood self-selection.


Baseline survey data from respondents (n = 1813) who participated in the RESIDential Environment (RESIDE) project (Perth, Western Australia) were used. Respondents were recruited based on their plans to move to another neighborhood in the following year. Usual weekly neighborhood-based walking, residential preferences, walking attitudes, and demographics were measured. Characteristics of the respondent’s baseline neighborhood were measured including transportation-related walkability and sidewalk length. A Heckman two-stage modeling approach (multivariate Probit regression for walking participation, followed by a sample selection-bias corrected OLS regression for walking minutes) estimated the relative contribution of sidewalk length to NWT and NWR.


After adjustment, neighborhood sidewalk length and walkability were positively associated with a 2.97 and 2.16 percentage point increase in the probability of NWT participation, respectively. For each 10 km increase in sidewalk length, NWT increased by 5.38 min/wk and overall neighborhood-based walking increased by 5.26 min/wk. Neighborhood walkability was not associated with NWT or NWR minutes. Moreover, sidewalk length was not associated with NWR minutes.


Sidewalk availability in established neighborhoods may be differentially associated with walking for different purposes. Our findings suggest that large investments in sidewalk construction alone would yield small increases in walking.

Pedestrian; Urban form; Walkability; Exercise; Sidewalks