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Perceived characteristics of the environment associated with active travel: development and testing of a new scale

Ogilvie, D. and Mitchell, R. and Mutrie, N. and Petticrew, M. and Platt, S. (2008) Perceived characteristics of the environment associated with active travel: development and testing of a new scale. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5 (1). p. 32. ISSN 1479-5868

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Abstract

Environmental characteristics may be associated with patterns of physical activity. However, the development of instruments to measure perceived characteristics of the local environment is still at a comparatively early stage, and published instruments are not necessarily suitable for application in all settings. We therefore developed and established the test-retest reliability of a new scale for use in a study of the correlates of active travel and overall physical activity in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Scotland. We developed and piloted a 14-item scale based on seven constructs identified from the literature (aesthetics, green space, access to amenities, convenience of routes, traffic, road safety and personal safety). We administered the scale to all participants in a random postal survey (n = 1322) and readministered the scale to a subset of original respondents (n = 125) six months later. We used principal components analysis and Varimax rotation to identify three principal components (factors) and derived summary scores for subscales based on these factors. We examined the internal consistency of these subscales using Cronbach's alpha and examined the test-retest reliability of the individual items, the subscale summary scores and an overall summary neighbourhood score using a combination of correlation coefficients and Cohen's kappa with and without weighting. Public transport and proximity to shops were the items most likely to be rated positively, whereas traffic volume, traffic noise and road safety for cyclists were most likely to be rated negatively. Three principal components - 'safe and pleasant surroundings', 'low traffic' and 'convenience for walking' - together explained 45% of the total variance. The test-retest reliability of individual items was comparable with that of items in other published scales (intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) 0.34-0.70; weighted Cohen's kappa 0.24-0.59). The overall summary neighbourhood score had acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha 0.72) and testretest reliability (ICC 0.73). This new scale contributes to the development of a growing set of tools for investigating the role of perceived environmental characteristics in explaining or mediating patterns of active travel and physical activity.