Assessing Walking Conditions with Audits

What is a walkability audit?

A walkability audit is an unbiased examination/evaluation of the walking environment. The general purpose of an audit is to identify concerns for pedestrians related to the safety, access, comfort, and convenience of the walking environment. In addition to identifying problem areas, an audit can be used to identify potential alternatives or solutions (such as engineering treatments, policy changes, or education and enforcement measures).

Walkability audits can be geared toward examining one or many specific types of facilities (e.g., an audit focusing on crosswalks, intersections, bus stops, school zones, sidewalks, etc.). Audits can also be performed at many different stages of the walking environment's development, including planning and designing, during construction, and on completed or established facilities/walking environments.

Processes such as inventories and standards checks may be similar, but might differ in terms of purpose, scope, and procedural elements.

Who performs a walkability audit?

Informal audits can be performed by any individual or community group. More formal audits (i.e., those that follow a standardized set of audit procedures) can also be conducted; these are usually performed by a multidisciplinary team of trained professionals, including engineers, planners, transportation researchers, pedestrian and bicycle specialists, and others.

Audits are performed by a person or group that is independent of the person or agency responsible for the design, development, or maintenance of the facility audited. This is to ensure that the audit is conducted with "fresh eyes" and that the results of the audit are unbiased; it also helps prevent potential conflicts of interest. If a review/evaluation of a facility is conducted by the same group responsible for it, this process is an assessment—there is value to having an assessment, but it is not the same as an audit.

Example pedestrian audits

Below are some links to available audit tools and materials. Most of these were developed for auditing existing facilities (as opposed to design plans or pre-construction facilities). Some of the audits were developed for use by a trained or expert team of auditors, while others were less formal and were developed more for a community member to be able to assess his or her neighborhood conditions in order to better advocate for change. The materials are organized into the following categories:

For more information on performing a walking audit with volunteers in your community, view the video "How to Improve Walking Routes in Your Community: DIY Sidewalks and Streets Survey."