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A Spatial Agent-Based Model of Walking Behavior in Cities

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Yong Yang, Daniel G. Brown, Rick L. Riolo

Given the relevance of walking as a component of physical activity, the study of the environmental determinants of walking has been the subject of much recent research. Studies have documented associations of walking with environmental features such as land use mix and proximity of destinations, street connectivity and presence of sidewalks, aesthetic and design features of the environment, and safety and violence levels. However, important questions remain about how the multiple dynamic relations between individuals and their environments affect behaviors.

The overall goal of this proposal is to develop an exploratory agent-based model (ABM) to simulate people’s walking behavior within a hypothetical city. The development of this model will provide a concrete practical illustration of the application of complex systems methodologies in population health; will allow exploration of the interactions between physical and social environments in shaping the levels and distribution of walking behavior – as well as the possible impacts of various policies on walking; and will identify the kinds of data that need to be collected make the model more “realistic.” To these ends, we will: (1) build an agent-based model to simulate people’s walking behavior within a hypothetical city; (2) use the model to explore how the characteristics of the built and social environment jointly shape population levels of walking behavior and contribute to differences in walking levels by social groups; (3) use the model to explore the possible impact of different types of policy interventions on population-levels of walking under different hypothetical scenarios; and (4) explore the feasibility of making the model reflect a real city. A city in U.S. will be selected as a case study and necessary data sources will be compiled.

Funding Period: 08/18/2011 to 07/31/2014

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