Unpublished Research

Systematic social observation by bicycle: A new methodology for neighborhood assessment

Published July 30, 2011
Kwate, N.O.A., & Saldana, N.T. Systematic social observation by bicycle: A new methodology for neighborhood assessment

Research on neighborhood context has employed a number of methods to audit variables and behaviors of interest, ranging from "windshield" assessments to on-foot raters with clipboards. This brief report introduces a novel approach to systematic social observation (SSO) using bicycles, and describes the strengths and challenges of this methodology. As part of a larger study in New York City examining the health effects of racism among African Americans, we sought to assess physical infrastructure and urban design. We did so by mounting high definition sports cameras to bicycles and filming the built environment while riding. This method rendered a high volume of data capture in a relatively short time; we filmed a total of 1120 face blocks between June and August 2010. We contend that a bicycle-based SSO can be a promising method for neighborhood assessments, as it allows for a broad snapshot of infrastructural features that are less easily assessed by raters at street-level.

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