Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index
The San Francisco Department of Public Health developed the Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI) as a tool to prioritize improvements in pedestrian infrastructure during the planning process. The PEQI draws on published research and work from numerous cities to assess how the physical environment impacts whether people walk in a neighborhood. The PEQI is an observational survey that quantifies street and intersection factors empirically known to affect people's travel behaviors and is organized into five categories: intersection safety, traffic, street design, land use and perceived safety. Within these categories are 31 indicators that reflect the quality of the built environment for pedestrians and comprise the survey used for data collection. SFDPH has aggregated these indicators to create a weighted summary index, which can be reported as an overall index. Table 1 indicates how the indicators fit into the broader domains of pedestrian comfort and security.
Table 1: PEQI 2.0 Indicators by Domain
§ High visibility crosswalk
§ Intersection lighting
§ Traffic control
§ Pedestrian/ Countdown signal
§ Wait time
§ Crossing speed
§ Pedestrian refuge island
§ Curb ramps
§ Intersection traffic calming features
§ Pedestrian engineering countermeasures
§ Number of vehicle lanes
§ Posted speed limit
§ Traffic volume
§ Street traffic calming features
§ Continuous sidewalk
§ Width of sidewalk
§ Width of throughway
§ Large sidewalk obstructions
§ Sidewalk impediments
§ Driveway cuts
§ Presence of a buffer
§ Planters/ gardens
§ Public art/ historic sites
§ Retail use and public places
§ Pedestrian scale lighting§ Illegal graffiti
§ Empty spaces
Background and Development
In San Francisco and in many cities nationwide, there is a dearth of data on the existence and quality of street and sidewalk infrastructure for pedestrians. SFDPH developed the PEQI as a practical method to evaluate existing barriers to walking and prioritize future investments for increasing pedestrian activity and safety in land use and urban planning processes. The PEQI version 2.0 is currently undergoing beta testing and will be available for download in late September. Click here to see an explanation of the differences between the old and new version.
SFDPH consulted national experts including city planners, independent planning consultants, and pedestrian advocates to develop the indicator weights and scores for each indicator category, based on survey responses. The PEQI has been utilized by numerous agencies and community groups in San Francisco and adapted for use in other cities nationwide.
Relevance to Health and Health Equity
Environments that support walking, both as an alternative to driving and as a leisure activity, have multiple, potential positive health impacts. Environments that encourage walking while discouraging driving reduce traffic-related noise and air pollution – associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, premature death, and lung function changes especially in children and people with lung diseases such as asthma. Quality, safe pedestrian environments also support a decreased risk of motor vehicle collisions and an increase in physical activity and social cohesion with benefits including the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as well as stress reduction and mental health improvements that promote individual and community health. Given these implications, San Francisco residents should have equal access to quality, safe pedestrian environments throughout the city.
Applications and Projects Using the PEQI
Data can be collected by using an audit form designed for use by a trained observer based on visual assessments of intersections and streets. Once collected, the data is entered into a customized Microsoft Access database and automatically scored. A PEQI score, reflecting the quality of the pedestrian environment on a 0 to 100 scale, is created for each street segment and intersection in a defined area. An accompanying manual (soon to be released) describes how each indicator should be evaluated, including tips for resolving ambiguous situations, and describes how to enter the data into the database and how to map the data using ESRI ArcGIS software.
Below is the current list of applications, processes or projects that have used the PEQI:
- Pittsburg Railroad Ave. Specific Plan Health Impact Assessment. (June 2008)
- Treasure Island Community Transportation Plan (SFDPH and San Francisco Bicycle Coalition; 2009)
- Pathways to Community Health: Evaluating the Healthfulness of Affordable Housing. Opportunity Sites along the San Pablo Avenue Corridor Using Health Impact Assessment. (Human Impact Partners; August 2009)
- Use of the Healthy Development Measurement Tool (HDMT) in Denver Cross-Sector Partnerships for Development and Public Health South Lincoln Homes, Denver CO. (Denver Housing Authority; December 2009)
- Pedestrian Environmental Quality and Safety in the Eastern Neighborhoods: Analysis and Recommendations (SFDPH; 2010)
- Walkability and Pedestrian Safety in Boyle Heights (UCLA; 2010)
- Park Renovation Impact on Physical Activity among Youth. (Trust for Public Land, RAND Corporation and SFDPH; 2011)
- Pedestrian Safety Needs Assessment of San Francisco’s Chinatown. (Chinatown Community Development Center; 2011)
- Health Impact Assessment of Road Pricing Policies in San Francisco. (SFDPH; 2011)
- Green Connections, to improve access to urban green spaces in San Francisco. (SFDPH, SF Planning; 2012)
As SFDPH continues to work on walking and pedestrian safety conditions in San Francisco, we have been improving and evaluating opportunities to use the PEQI as a tool to prioritize pedestrian realm improvements in plans and projects. SFDPH hopes to further engage planners, City agencies and community organizations to use the PEQI for transportation planning and as an evaluation tool on future development and transportation projects.