Walkability in policies

An evolution from conceptualization to policy discourse in Portugal


  • Carolina Ramos CIAUD, Research Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Design, Lisbon School of Architecture, Universidade de Lisboa
  • David Vale CIAUD, Research Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Design, Lisbon School of Architecture, Universidade de Lisboa
  • João Mourato Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa


Walkability, Conceptual Framework, Discourse Analysis, Policy Integration, Portugal




In the last thirty years, the literature coined Walkability as an index measured through attributes of the built environment and walking behaviour (Frank et al., 2010; Fonseca et al., 2022). Recently, planning-oriented research acknowledges the interdisciplinarity of Walkability and incorporates its measurable variables as indicators addressing policies toward sustainable and healthy cities (Giles-Corti et al., 2022). However, Walkability has not been substantially promoted explicitly in a single policy, but mainly implicitly through different conceptual components addressing various policies. Thus, the planning discussion returns to the conceptual basis to assertively define the components impacting Walkability inserted into policy discourses (Lowe et al., 2022; Nau et al., 2023).

This work builds upon a chronologic conceptual framework indicating key components related implicitly or explicitly to Walkability. The evolution suggests a long-term transfer of the Walkability concept from scientific and theoretical knowledge into planning practice. A qualitative discourse analysis aims to identify the key concepts of Walkability, implicit or explicit, in policy document guidelines, goals, and measures. This research works towards interpreting whether the key concepts impacting Walkability are incorporated into policy contents, taking Portugal's National policy documents from 2000 to 2023 as a case study.  

Previous results point to a policy timeline indicating that Walkability has not been the protagonist theme in Portugal's planning system over the years. The research suggests it was initially implemented chiefly implicitly within specific sectors of Urban and Transport Planning, gradually becoming explicit as an integration concept within intersectoral policy designs concerning Sustainability, Climate Change Governance, and Public Health. Reinforcing these findings, the National Strategy for Pedestrian Mobility recently approved in 2023   finally promotes Walkability in a single policy that integrates multisectoral policy discourses. 

Author Biography

  • Carolina Ramos, CIAUD, Research Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Design, Lisbon School of Architecture, Universidade de Lisboa

    Currently PhD candidate and research collaborator at the Research Center in Architecture, Urbanism, and Design (CIAUD), Faculty of Architecture, University of Lisbon (FA-UL), Universidade de Liisboa, where she has been affiliated with the UrbinLab - Urbanism & Territorial Dynamics research group since 2019. Architect and urban planner graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Brasília (FAU-UnB) in 2008, holds a Master's degree in " Transposrt et Mobilité" from the  "École d'Urbanisme de Paris/ Université Paris-Est" (2011).   PhD scholarship (Fundação para Ciência de Tecnologia-FCT) with the research project titled: "Walkability as an Integrating Element of Public Policies." 



Fonseca, F. et al. (2022) ‘Built environment attributes and their influence on walkability’, International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 16(7), pp. 660 – 679. doi: 10.1080/15568318.2021.1914793.

Frank, L. D. et al. (2010) ‘The development of a walkability index: application to the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study.’, British journal of sports medicine, 44(13), pp. 924–33. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.058701.

Giles-Corti, B. et al. (2022) ‘Creating healthy and sustainable cities: what gets measured, gets done’, The Lancet Global Health, 10(6), pp. e782–e785. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(22)00070-5.

Lowe, M. et al. (2022) ‘City planning policies to support health and sustainability: an international comparison of policy indicators for 25 cities’, The Lancet Global Health, 10(6), pp. e882–e894. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(22)00069-9.

Nau, T. et al. (2023) ‘Mapping and analysis of laws influencing built environments for walking and cycling in Australia’, BMC Public Health, 23(1), pp. 1–25. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14897-w.