Developing a reliable audit instrument to measure the physical environment for physical activity

Am J Prev Med. 2002 Oct;23(3):187-94. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(02)00498-1.


Background: The physical environment plays an important role in influencing participation in physical activity, although which factors of the physical environment have the greatest effect on patterns of activity remain to be determined. We describe the development of a comprehensive instrument to measure the physical environmental factors that may influence walking and cycling in local neighborhoods and report on its reliability.

Methods: Following consultation with experts from a variety of fields and a literature search, we developed a Systematic Pedestrian and Cycling Environmental Scan (SPACES) instrument and used it to collect data over a total of 1987 kilometers of roads in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. The audit instrument is available from the first author on request. Additional environmental information was collected using desktop methods and geographic information systems (GIS) technology. We assessed inter- and intra-rater reliability of the instrument among the 16 observers who collected the data.

Results: The observers reported that the audit instrument was easy to use. Both inter- and intra-rater reliability of the environmental scan instrument were generally high.

Conclusions: Our instrument provides a reliable, practical, and easy-to-use method for collecting detailed "street-level" data on physical environmental factors that are potential influences on walking in local neighborhoods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Environment Design*
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Safety
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Western Australia