OBJECTIVE: Built environment characteristics are closely related to transport behavior, but observed variations could be due to residents own choice of neighborhood called residential self-selection. The aim of this study was to investigate differences in neighborhood walkability and residential self-selection across life stages in relation to active transport behavior.
METHODS: The IPEN walkability index, which consists of four built environment characteristics, was used to define 16 high and low walkable neighborhoods in Aarhus, Denmark (250.000 inhabitants). Transport behavior was assessed using the IPAQ questionnaire. Life stages were categorized in three groups according to age and parental status. A factor analysis was conducted to investigate patterns of self-selection. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were carried out to evaluate the association between walkability and transport behavior i.e. walking, cycling and motorized transport adjusted for residential self-selection and life stages.
RESULTS: A total of 642 adults aged 20-65 years completed the questionnaire. The highest rated self-selection preference across all groups was a safe and secure neighborhood followed by getting around easily on foot and by bicycle. Three self-selection factors were detected, and varied across the life stages. In the multivariable models high neighborhood walkability was associated with less motorized transport (OR 0.33 95%CI 0.18-0.58), more walking (OR 1.65 95%CI 1.03-2.65) and cycling (OR 1.50 95% CI 1.01-2.23). Self-selection and life stage were also associated with transport behavior, and attenuated the association with walkability.
CONCLUSION: This study supports the hypothesis that some variation in transport behavior can be explained by life stages and self-selection, but the association between living in a more walkable neighborhood and active transport is still significant after adjusting for these factors. Life stage significantly moderated the association between neighborhood walkability and cycling for transport, and household income significantly moderated the association between neighborhood walkability and walking for transport. Getting around easily by bicycle and on foot was the highest rated self-selection factor second only to perceived neighborhood safety.