Beyond walking: An assessment and description of streets as potential physical activity places in low-income communities


Low-income communities often have fewer quality community-level physical activity places (PAPs) or resources (e.g., parks, playgrounds). When present, barriers like traffic, distance, and crime often prevent access. Creative solutions and better understanding of current and potential realistic PAPs are necessary for children and families to be active. Streets are rarely considered potential PAPs despite their ubiquity and accessibility. This article describes street segments as potential PAPs in low-income Mexican-heritage colonias communities along the Texas-Mexico border. Promotora-researchers conducted modified PAP assessments to describe the availability and quality of physical activity features, amenities, and incivilities of all street segments (n=867) in two low-income colonias regions along the Texas-Mexico border. Streets in these communities did contain features and amenities associated with physical activity promotion. On average, street segments had 6.10 (SD=7.20) physical activity-promoting features, 26.60 (SD=27.30) physical activity-promoting amenities, and both were assessed as good-to-fair quality. Future physical activity programming should consider incorporating streets as potential PAPs to enhance physical activity and active play. Further, evaluating streets as PAPs in this way may provide insight into locations for temporary place-based programs such as Play Streets. Future research should also examine residents’ perceptions of their streets as PAPs for safe physical activity and active play, not just as places to walk, and which PAP characteristics matter for safe physical activity and active play to occur on streets.

Journal of Healthy Eating and Active Living