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Active mobility in the city – socioecological determinants of walkability and public health
Client:German Research Foundation (DFG)
Partner(s):University of Konstanz
Time frame:11/2019 – 08/2022

Most people live in cities and more are moving into urban environments. However, there is considerable evidence that the advantages of urban lifestyles are also accompanied with a higher prevalence for psychological stress and disorders, resulting in inactivity and social isolation. Based on this observation, continued urbanisation requires that urban design incorporates perspectives of healthy environments, including walkable neighbourhoods. So far, research on this topic has largely been the domain of spatial planning and the health sciences, focusing on the concept of walkability and individual predictors of active mobility. As a consequence of limited interdisciplinary exchange on the topic, little is known about the interaction and person-environment fit of influencing factors. To date, no adequate measures have been presented that would capture and allow for an assessment of health-promoting properties and potentials of urban neighbourhoods.

This proposal uses a socio-ecological and interdisciplinary research framework to connect prominent theoretical and methodological approaches in spatial planning and the health sciences. The operationalization of person-environment fit for active mobility uses the lifestyle concept rooted in social sciences as an innovative methodological novelty.

The project starts with a macro-analysis: research areas will be selected from an analysis of archived spatial data in the largest German cities, exploring the relationship between lifestyles and active mobility. An assessment tool will help to identify features of selected neighbourhoods that promote physical activity (“micro-publics”). In addition, activity-triggered assessments capture the relationship between current well-being, social interaction and active mobility (based on a previously funded DFG project conducted by Prof. Dr. Martina Kanning). Focus group interviews will verify the results and deliver a detailed understanding of lifestyle factors that moderate active mobility.

Connecting the methodological and theoretical approaches for the mentioned disciplines is likely to deliver new insights and scientific advancements for knowledge about the health perspectives of the urban population. The innovation lies in new possibilities to improve the person-environment fit for a range of urban design and planning objectives. To this end project results allow for an initial assessment of health potentials of urban neighbourhoods. The outcomes of all research parts will be used to develop enhanced walkability measurement concepts.

Project leader:
  • Dr. rer. nat. Stefan Fina

Project team:

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