GIS Protocols: Measuring the Pedestrian Environment

Monday, November 7, 2005 - 3:45pm

About the Event

Environmental features such as lakes are thought to influence physical activity, but standards for key measurement variables have been lacking. Professor Ann Forsyth will describe a manual developed by her team that provides protocols for measuring environmental variables associated with walking.

The manual has four purposes:

  • To record the methods for environmental measurement used in the Twin Cities Walking Study so that the research team can replicate its own findings at a later date and different measurement staff can share common definitions and processes. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are so multifaceted that seemingly simple decisions made at one time have ramifications for future work. Without a formal communications mechanism that makes such decisions explicit and organizes them, errors can be left unrecognized, thereby compounding measurement problems.
  • To document methods for replication. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which funded the Twin Cities Walking Study, expressed interest in documenting methods well enough to have at least some measurements replicated across other RWJF study teams in order to allow later meta-analysis.
  • To provide a preliminary prototype for other such manuals that may be produced by different teams. It is also possible for other teams to merely modify this manual, however, with attribution.
  • To make GIS research methods and data sources less opaque, particularly to public health researchers who have not used such data.


Ann Forsyth, Director, Metropolitan Design Center