Pedestrians' perceptions of walkability and safety in relation to the built environment in Cali, Colombia, 2009-10

Inj Prev. 2012 Oct;18(5):291-7. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2011-040223. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Objective: To assess pedestrians' perceptions of the walkability of the urban environment and pedestrian safety in Cali, Colombia.

Design: Standardised intercept interviews were conducted of 400 pedestrians walking in 20 randomly selected urban zones to ascertain frequency of walking, and perceptions of safety, the built environment and security. Four focus group meetings were held with community members and students addressing these issues in an open-ended forum. The study analysed quantitative data collected in street interviews and qualitative information from focus groups addressing respondents' views on problems for pedestrians, how the built environment affects walking and ideal walking conditions.

Results: Access to public transportation was deemed the most positive characteristic of the built environment and 61% of respondents liked walking in the street. When disaggregating street conditions, the majority of pedestrians were dissatisfied with their walking experiences. Pedestrians cited lack of respect for norms, personal safety and built environment characteristics as their main concerns. Among frequent walkers, residents tended to rate their neighbourhoods more negatively compared with non-residents. Through qualitative interviews it became apparent that narrow sidewalks that are frequently obstructed by motor vehicles are a key reason for pedestrian dissatisfaction. A perception of overall insecurity further determines how pedestrians assess or modulate their walking in this city.

Conclusions: Overall, walking in Cali was perceived negatively by pedestrians because of built environment characteristics and perceptions of insecurity. Qualitative information used to complement intercept surveys can provide a better way to identify pedestrian-specific transport-related problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Public Health
  • Safety / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Renewal*
  • Walking*
  • Young Adult