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Measuring Network Connectivity for Bicycling and Walking

Advocates of New Urbanist and neo-traditional planning concepts include street connectivity as a key component for good neighborhood design. Street networks that are more grid-like are preferred over networks that include many cul-de-sacs and long blocks, thus increasing distances between destinations. The increased distances are thought to discourage walking and bicycling and, thus, physical activity.

While intuitively attractive, there is limited empirical research at this time making this connection. There is also debate over how to measure connectivity and what levels of connectivity are appropriate. The objective of this research is to evaluate various measures of connectivity for the purpose of increasing walking and bicycling. Measures of connectivity can be useful in two arenas: (1) research linking travel behavior (and perhaps physical activity and health) to urban form; and (2) public policy establishing performance standards for new and/or existing development.

This paper first defines and describes a wide range of measures of connectivity, drawn from multiple fields, including transportation, urban planning, geography, and landscape ecology. The paper then includes some preliminary results applying four measures of connectivity to the Portland, Oregon region.