Skip to main content

Assessing Walking and Cycling Environments in the Streets of Madrid: Comparing On-Field and Virtual Audits

Abstract

Audit tools are useful for exploring the urban environment and its association with physical activity. Virtual auditing options are becoming increasingly available potentially reducing the resources needed to conduct these assessments. Only a few studies have explored the use of virtual audit tools. Our objective is to test if the Madrid Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environment Scan (M-SPACES) discriminates between areas with different urban forms and to validate virtual street auditing using M-SPACES. Three areas (N = 500 street segments) were selected for variation in population density. M-SPACES was used to audit street segments physically and virtually (Google Street View) by two researchers in 2013–2014. For both physical and virtual audits, all analyzed features score significantly different by area (p < 0.05). Most of the features showed substantial (ICC = 0.6–0.8) or almost perfect (ICC ≥ 0.8) agreement between virtual and physical audits, especially neighborhood permeability walking infrastructure, traffic safety, streetscape aesthetics, and destinations. Intra-rater agreement was generally acceptable (ICC > 0.6). Inter-rater agreement was generally poor (ICC < 0.4). Virtual auditing provides a valid and feasible way of measuring residential urban environments. Comprehensive auditor training may be needed to guarantee good inter-rater agreement.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

FIG. 1
FIG. 2
FIG. 3
FIG. 4

Abbreviations

CVD:

Cardiovascular diseases

GSV:

Google Street View

SPACES:

Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan

NZ-SPACES:

New Zealand Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan

M-SPACES:

Madrid Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan

HHH:

Heart Healthy Hoods

ICC:

Intraclass correlation coefficient

References

  1. 1.

    Nichols M, Townsend N, Scarborough P, Rayner M. Cardiovascular disease in Europe: epidemiological update. Eur Heart J. 2013; 34(39): 3028–34.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Beaglehole R, Bonita R. Global public health: a scorecard. Lancet. 2008; 372(9654): 1988–96.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    WHO. Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2011.

  4. 4.

    Shephard RJ. Is active commuting the answer to population health? Sports Med. 2008; 38(9): 751–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Lindstrom M. Means of transportation to work and overweight and obesity: a population-based study in southern Sweden. Prev Med. 2008; 46(1): 22–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Hamer M, Chida Y. Walking and primary prevention: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Br J Sports Med. 2008; 42(4): 238–43.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Lee IM, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN, Katzmarzyk PT. Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet. 2012; 380(9838): 219–29.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Rose G. Sick individuals and sick populations. Int J Epidemiol. 1985; 14(1): 32–8.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Giles-Corti B, Donovan RJ. The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Soc Sci Med. 2002; 54(12): 1793–812.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Mozaffarian D, Afshin A, Benowitz NL, et al. Population approaches to improve diet, physical activity, and smoking habits: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012; 126(12): 1514–63.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Chow CK, Lock K, Teo K, Subramanian SV, McKee M, Yusuf S. Environmental and societal influences acting on cardiovascular risk factors and disease at a population level: a review. Int J Epidemiol. 2009; 38(6): 1580–94.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Townshend T, Lake AA. Obesogenic urban form: theory, policy and practice. Health Place. 2009; 15(4): 909–16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Jackson RJ, Dannenberg AL, Frumkin H. Health and the built environment: 10 years after. Am J Public Health. 2013; 103(9): 1542–4.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Franco M, Bilal U, Diez-Roux AV. Preventing non-communicable diseases through structural changes in urban environments. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2015; 69(6): 509–11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Wilson JS, Kelly CM, Schootman M, et al. Assessing the built environment using omnidirectional imagery. Am J Prev Med. 2012; 42(2): 193–9.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Diez Roux AV. Neighborhoods and health: where are we and were do we go from here? Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2007; 55(1): 13–21.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Brownson RC, Hoehner CM, Day K, Forsyth A, Sallis JF. Measuring the built environment for physical activity: state of the science. Am J Prev Med. 2009; 36(4 Suppl): S99–123. e112.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Charreire H, Mackenbach JD, Ouasti M, et al. Using remote sensing to define environmental characteristics related to physical activity and dietary behaviours: a systematic review (the SPOTLIGHT project). Health Place. 2013; 25C: 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Vargo J, Stone B, Glanz K. Google walkability: a new tool for local planning and public health research? J Phys Act Health. 2012; 9(5): 689–97.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Clarke P, Ailshire J, Melendez R, Bader M, Morenoff J. Using Google Earth to conduct a neighborhood audit: reliability of a virtual audit instrument. Health Place. 2010; 16(6): 1224–9.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Rundle AG, Bader MD, Richards CA, Neckerman KM, Teitler JO. Using Google Street View to audit neighborhood environments. Am J Prev Med. 2011; 40(1): 94–100.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Kelly CM, Wilson JS, Baker EA, Miller DK, Schootman M. Using Google Street View to audit the built environment: inter-rater reliability results. Ann Behav Med. 2013; 45(Suppl 1): S108–12.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ben-Joseph E, Lee JS, Cromley EK, Laden F, Troped PJ. Virtual and actual: relative accuracy of on-site and web-based instruments in auditing the environment for physical activity. Health Place. 2013; 19: 138–50.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Kelly C, Wilson JS, Schootman M, Clennin M, Baker EA, Miller DK. The built environment predicts observed physical activity. Front Public Health. 2014; 2: 52.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Janssen I, Rosu A. Measuring sidewalk distances using Google Earth. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2012; 12: 39.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Carson V, Janssen I. Neighborhood disorder and screen time among 10–16 year old Canadian youth: a cross-sectional study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012; 9: 66.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Taylor BT, Fernando P, Bauman AE, Williamson A, Craig JC, Redman S. Measuring the quality of public open space using Google Earth. Am J Prev Med. 2011; 40(2): 105–12.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Badland HM, Opit S, Witten K, Kearns RA, Mavoa S. Can virtual streetscape audits reliably replace physical streetscape audits? J Urban Health. 2010; 87(6): 1007–16.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Griew P, Hillsdon M, Foster C, Coombes E, Jones A, Wilkinson P. Developing and testing a street audit tool using Google Street View to measure environmental supportiveness for physical activity. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013; 10: 103.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Bethlehem JR, Mackenbach JD, Ben-Rebah M, et al. The SPOTLIGHT virtual audit tool: a valid and reliable tool to assess obesogenic characteristics of the built environment. Int J Health Geogr. 2014; 13: 52.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Vanwolleghem G, Van Dyck D, Ducheyne F, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Cardon G. Assessing the environmental characteristics of cycling routes to school: a study on the reliability and validity of a Google Street View-based audit. Int J Health Geogr. 2014; 13(1): 19.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Kazepov Y. Cities of Europe: changing contexts, local arrangement and the challenge to urban cohesion. Oxford, United Kingdom: Wiley; 2005.

  33. 33.

    Kasanko M, Barredo JI, Lavalle C, et al. Are European cities becoming dispersed?: A comparative analysis of 15 European urban areas. Landsc Urban Plan. 2006; 77(1–2): 111–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Censo de Población y viviendas. Resultados municipales Madrid. Instituto Nacional de Estadística. 2011. http://www.ine.es/censos2011_datos/cen11_datos_resultados.htm. Accessed 11/19/2013.

  35. 35.

    Kulldorff M. A spatial scan statistic. Comm Stat Theor Meth. 1997; 26(6): 1481–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    McCormack GR, Shiell A. In search of causality: a systematic review of the relationship between the built environment and physical activity among adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011; 8: 125.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Pikora T, Giles-Corti B, Bull F, Jamrozik K, Donovan R. Developing a framework for assessment of the environmental determinants of walking and cycling. Soc Sci Med. 2003; 56(8): 1693–703.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Badland HM, Schofield GM, Witten K, et al. Understanding the Relationship Between Activity and Neighbourhoods (URBAN) study: research design and methodology. BMC Public Health. 2009; 9: 224.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Pikora T. SPACES instrument: observers manual

  40. 40.

    Bartko JJ. The intraclass correlation coefficient as a measure of reliability. Psychol Rep. 1966; 19(1): 3–11.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    DeVellis RF. Scale development: theory and applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications; 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Landis JR, Koch GG. The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics. 1977; 33(1): 159–74.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Pikora TJ, Giles-Corti B, Knuiman MW, Bull FC, Jamrozik K, Donovan RJ. Neighborhood environmental factors correlated with walking near home: using SPACES. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006; 38(4): 708–14.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Jago R, Baranowski T, Zakeri I, Harris M. Observed environmental features and the physical activity of adolescent males. Am J Prev Med. 2005; 29(2): 98–104.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Curtis JW, Curtis A, Mapes J, Szell AB, Cinderich A. Using Google Street View for systematic observation of the built environment: analysis of spatio-temporal instability of imagery dates. Int J Health Geogr. 2013; 12: 53.

    PubMed Central  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Carlos Martínez de la Serna, for his collaboration and ideas at the early stages of the study. This study was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013)/ERC Starting Grant HeartHealthyHoods Agreement no. 336893. Usama Bilal was supported by a La Caixa Fellowship (2012 edition) and by the Enrique Nájera grant for Young Epidemiologists (10th edition) awarded by the Sociedad Española de Epidemiología and the Escuela Nacional de Sanidad. HB is supported by the NHMRC Centre for Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities (no. 1061404) and the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre (TAPPC) (the latter is supported by NHMRC, ACT Health, NSW Health, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA), the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia (HCF), and the HCF Research Foundation).

Authors’ Contributions

MF, UB, and JD conceived the research idea. PG and HB contributed to the final design. PG and SA conducted data collection. FE and AC organized the database and prepared all the maps. PG conducted the statistical analysis. PG, HB, SA, FE, AC, JD, and MF reviewed and worked in the interpretation of the results. The first draft of the manuscript was prepared by PG and MF and reviewed by all authors. All authors have contributed and approved the final report.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Manuel Franco.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

ESM 1

(PDF 182 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gullón, P., Badland, H.M., Alfayate, S. et al. Assessing Walking and Cycling Environments in the Streets of Madrid: Comparing On-Field and Virtual Audits. J Urban Health 92, 923–939 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-015-9982-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Physical activity
  • Validation studies
  • Urban environment
  • Omnidirectional image
  • Virtual image