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Pedestrians' perceptions of walkability and safety in relation to the built environment in Cali, Colombia, 2009–10
  1. Andrés Villaveces1,2,
  2. Luis Alfonso Nieto2,
  3. Delia Ortega2,
  4. José Fernando Ríos2,
  5. John Jairo Medina2,
  6. María Isabel Gutiérrez2,
  7. Daniel Rodríguez3
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, and UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2CISALVA Institute, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia
  3. 3Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrés Villaveces, UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7505, USA; avillav{at}


Objective To assess pedestrians' perceptions of the walkability of the urban environment and pedestrian safety in Cali, Colombia.

Design Standardised intercept interviews were conducted of 400 pedestrians walking in 20 randomly selected urban zones to ascertain frequency of walking, and perceptions of safety, the built environment and security. Four focus group meetings were held with community members and students addressing these issues in an open-ended forum. The study analysed quantitative data collected in street interviews and qualitative information from focus groups addressing respondents' views on problems for pedestrians, how the built environment affects walking and ideal walking conditions.

Results Access to public transportation was deemed the most positive characteristic of the built environment and 61% of respondents liked walking in the street. When disaggregating street conditions, the majority of pedestrians were dissatisfied with their walking experiences. Pedestrians cited lack of respect for norms, personal safety and built environment characteristics as their main concerns. Among frequent walkers, residents tended to rate their neighbourhoods more negatively compared with non-residents. Through qualitative interviews it became apparent that narrow sidewalks that are frequently obstructed by motor vehicles are a key reason for pedestrian dissatisfaction. A perception of overall insecurity further determines how pedestrians assess or modulate their walking in this city.

Conclusions Overall, walking in Cali was perceived negatively by pedestrians because of built environment characteristics and perceptions of insecurity. Qualitative information used to complement intercept surveys can provide a better way to identify pedestrian-specific transport-related problems.

  • Developing nations
  • epidemiology
  • motor vehicle occupant
  • pedestrian
  • policy

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  • Funding This study was funded by international research scientist development award grant no K01TW008194 from the USA National Institutes of Health, John E Fogarty International Center.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The study received ethics approval from the institutional review boards of the Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.