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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluating the Impact of Neighborhood Trail Development on Active Travel Behavior and Overall Physical Activity


Many studies have examined the impact that the built environment has on physical activity, and much of the existing research posits that if communities will provide and improve active infrastructure such as trails, sidewalks, and bike lanes, people will become more physically active. However, most of these studies have used cross-sectional methods which have allowed them to establish correlations but not behavioral causality. In this pilot project a longitudinal design is used to evaluate the impact neighborhood trail development to assess a trail construction impact on active travel behavior and overall physical activity among suburban residents. A sample of suburban residents in West Valley City, Utah was surveyed both before and after the construction of a class-one trail in their neighborhood using a preliminary household survey, individual activity diaries completed at three pre-assigned time points (before and twice after the trail’s construction), new resident surveys, and a trail user’s intercept survey. This intervention technique performs a more direct test of causality by looking at the same group of residents over time and analyzing if individual changes in behavior occur following the construction of the trail. In the paper we show that trail neighborhood residents did not use the facility after it was build, new residents did not move to the neighborhood because of the trail, and the users of the trail come from elsewhere. We also report trail amenities that appear to be more desirable.

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