Measuring Walkability: A Comprehensive Index for Enhancing Pedestrian-Friendly Environments in Latin American Cities

Ana Margarita, Larranaga Uriarte
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, School of Engineering, Laboratory of Transport Systems, (LASTRAN), Porto Alegre, Brazil.


Walking is a prevalent mode of transportation in Latin American cities, yet it often lacks the priority it deserves in public policies. Cultural, institutional, and infrastructure barriers hinder walkability, exacerbating social and economic inequalities. Decisions about walking are influenced by observable components, like the built environment, as well as perceptions and attitudes, which vary based on individual characteristics.

This project aims to address these challenges and contribute significantly to the field of urban planning. It seeks to develop a comprehensive walkability assessment framework, encompassing both mesoscale and microscale built environment features while considering individual perceptions through static experiments and virtual reality experiences.

The project’s specific objectives include:

(i) Constructing a walkability index that integrates individual perceptions with data from the built environment, sourced from available datasets and virtual audits via Google Street View. This index will be applied to three Latin American cities: Porto Alegre (Brazil), Barranquilla (Colombia), and Concepción (Chile).
(ii) Mapping walkability in select urban areas based on key stratification variables such as motorization rate, household income, street slope, and the density of commercial establishments and services, as these factors significantly impact walkability.
(iii) Analyzing differences in urban feature perceptions among various demographic groups (socioeconomic status, gender, age) both within and between the study cities, assessing how these differences influence walkability assessments.
(iv) Comparing the impact of urban feature perceptions through standardized virtual reality experiments across all study cities, examining variations in perceptions among groups and cities to determine consistency or variation.

Using a straightforward, weighted additive index, advanced technology, and multidimensional data sources, this project aims to provide valuable insights and practical tools to enhance walkability and promote equitable urban spaces in Latin American cities, ultimately contributing to more sustainable and inclusive urban planning practices.