Road safety elements of the physical environment have been assessed objectively (for example, with a geographic information system) and subjectively (for example, self-reported perceptions), with contrasting findings observed. For instance, a North American study found that perceiving a busy street as a barrier was inversely associated with usage of a bikeway, but objective measurement of this same variable was not associated with bikeway usage among adults (Troped et al, 2001). Another North American study found perceptions of high-speed traffic were not associated with physical activity, but objectively measured low traffic speeds were positively associated with meeting leisure time physical activity guidelines among adults (McGinn et al, 2007). In contrast, a study in two North American cities found no relationship between self-reported perceptions of safety from traffic while riding or walking, or an objective audit of street safety and physical activity for transportation or for recreation (Hoehner et al, 2005). In one of the few longitudinal studies to examine the influence of road safety on physical activity, no relationship was observed between perceived road safety and walking for leisure, but participant reports of satisfaction with pedestrian crossings, the presence of traffic-slowing devices, and slow local traffic speed were positively associated with walking for transportation over 2 years (Cleland et al, 2008). The findings from this study further highlight the importance of examining physical activity behaviors specific to the environmental features being examined.
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