Neighborhood Aesthetics, Safety and Active Transport

As you’d expect in a city like NYC, many people walk or bike to get around.  This active transportation can be an important component of physical activity, particularly in neighborhoods that make active transportation an attractive and safe option.

Our latest paper, just published in the Active Living Research special issue of Annals of Behavioral Medicine, finds that aesthetic amenities like sidewalk cafes and neighborhood safety (as indicated by lower homicide rates) are associated with more walking and biking for transportation.  This follows on our earlier work (see the previous blog post) linking aesthetic amenities to lower BMI in another large NYC-based population; together these papers suggest that attractive features of neighborhood streets may have a role in supporting active lifestyles and a healthy weight.

However, both of these papers also explore interactions with neighborhood poverty and find that the explanatory power of aesthetic amenities may be weaker or absent in high poverty neighborhoods.  We have likewise found in both populations that the hypothesized associations of walkable urban form with active transportation and BMI, respectively, are weaker in high poverty neighborhoods.  The challenge of identifying and understanding what resources could support physical activity and obesity prevention in high poverty urban settings continues to drive much of our research.

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