Although a significant number of trips are made by foot in developing cities, pedestrian infrastructure, amenities, and services are often neglected in municipal planning and budgets. Since helping city planners understand the scope and extent of local pedestrian conditions relative to other cities would be a positive step towards improving the quality of the pedestrian environment, a walkability index to rank cities across the world based on the safety, security, and convenience of their pedestrian environments was devised.
This task was accomplished by, generating a list of Index variables by studying existing tools for evaluating non-motorized transport and by consulting experts from a variety of related fields. After considering different methods for survey area selection, field data collection, and data aggregation, prototypes of the index and survey materials and field tests in cities throughout the world.
Results from these tests were used to refine the Index composition and data collection methodologies, resulting in a two-pronged tool. Since, out of practical necessity, the Global Walkability Index’s robustness is limited by its simplicity (the Index is primarily intended to generate awareness of walkability as an important issue), an additional set of Extended Survey Materials that may be used to gather more detailed, site-specific data for use in developing investment and policy proposals were also developed.
The Index has three limitations: 1) The notion of walkability is not well understood, paving the way for widespread misunderstanding; 2) The Index requires data to be collected in the field; and 3) The simplicity of data collection methodologies for practical purposes results in a less-robust Index, and may diminish its usefulness as a tool for investment and policy reform.