Journal Article
Virtual and actual: relative accuracy of on-site and web-based instruments in auditing the environment for physical activity

OBJECTIVES:

To assess the relative accuracy and usefulness of web tools in evaluating and measuring street-scale built environment characteristics.

METHODS:

A well-known audit tool was used to evaluate 84 street segments at the urban edge of metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts, using on-site visits and three web-based tools. The assessments were compared to evaluate their relative accuracy and usefulness.

RESULTS:

Web-based audits, based-on Google Maps, Google Street View, and MS Visual Oblique, tend to strongly agree with on-site audits on land-use and transportation characteristics (e.g., types of buildings, commercial destinations, and streets). However, the two approaches to conducting audits (web versus on-site) tend to agree only weakly on fine-grain, temporal, and qualitative environmental elements. Among the web tools used, auditors rated MS Visual Oblique as the most valuable. Yet Street View tends to be rated as the most useful in measuring fine-grain features, such as levelness and condition of sidewalks.

CONCLUSION:

While web-based tools do not offer a perfect substitute for on-site audits, they allow for preliminary audits to be performed accurately from remote locations, potentially saving time and cost and increasing the effectiveness of subsequent on-site visits.

Title
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBen-Joseph E
Secondary AuthorsLee JSeung
Tertiary AuthorsCromley EK
Subsidiary AuthorsLaden F, Troped PJ
JournalHealth & place
Volume19
Pagination138-150
Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To assess the relative accuracy and usefulness of web tools in evaluating and measuring street-scale built environment characteristics.

METHODS:

A well-known audit tool was used to evaluate 84 street segments at the urban edge of metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts, using on-site visits and three web-based tools. The assessments were compared to evaluate their relative accuracy and usefulness.

RESULTS:

Web-based audits, based-on Google Maps, Google Street View, and MS Visual Oblique, tend to strongly agree with on-site audits on land-use and transportation characteristics (e.g., types of buildings, commercial destinations, and streets). However, the two approaches to conducting audits (web versus on-site) tend to agree only weakly on fine-grain, temporal, and qualitative environmental elements. Among the web tools used, auditors rated MS Visual Oblique as the most valuable. Yet Street View tends to be rated as the most useful in measuring fine-grain features, such as levelness and condition of sidewalks.

CONCLUSION:

While web-based tools do not offer a perfect substitute for on-site audits, they allow for preliminary audits to be performed accurately from remote locations, potentially saving time and cost and increasing the effectiveness of subsequent on-site visits.

URLhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23247423