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J Environ Psychol. 2009 Dec 1;29(4):457-466.

Creating and validating GIS measures of urban design for health research.

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Institute for Social & Economic Research & Policy, 420 West 118th Street, Mail Code 3355, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Studies relating urban design to health have been impeded by the unfeasibility of conducting field observations across large areas and the lack of validated objective measures of urban design. This study describes measures for five dimensions of urban design - imageability, enclosure, human scale, transparency, and complexity - created using public geographic information systems (GIS) data from the US Census and city and state government. GIS measures were validated for a sample of 588 New York City block faces using a well-documented field observation protocol. Correlations between GIS and observed measures ranged from 0.28 to 0.89. Results show valid urban design measures can be constructed from digital sources.

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