The Benefits of Street-Scale Features for Walking and Biking

By Anna Read, AICP, Lindsay Braun



As the costs of physical inactivity become increasingly evident, and as planners, public health professionals, and others working in the field of active transportation strive to promote walking and biking, the necessity of retrofitting and updating street facilities and sidewalk features is apparent. The benefits of incorporating infrastructure that supports active transportation into our streetscapes are many. While efforts to encourage walking and biking often focus on physical activity benefits, it is important to recognize that investments in these travel modes offer a wider set of potential co-benefits for communities.

This literature review focuses on the benefits that may arise from investment in different types of street-scale features, either independently or in combination. The review considers not only potential impacts related to physical activity — which have been treated extensively in the literature to date — but also a variety of co-benefits including social cohesion, crime prevention and public safety, multimodal traffic safety, mental health, and economic effects. The review links these co-benefits to various types of street-scale features that encourage walking and biking, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, traffic calming, crossing aids, aesthetics and placemaking, public space, street trees, green infrastructure, and street furniture.

This report was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the Active Living Research program.


Page Count
Date Published
Sept. 1, 2015
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Anna Read, AICP

Lindsay Braun
Lindsay Braun is an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research addresses the relationship between the built environment and travel behavior with an emphasis on active transportation and public health. Her recent work has focused on issues of social equity and power in access to walking and cycling infrastructure in U.S. cities. Prior to earning her PhD, Lindsay worked as a transportation planning consultant in Raleigh, NC, where she partnered with local, state, and federal agencies to evaluate the community impacts of transportation investments and to develop resources for community health and livability.