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Study looks at downtown Chapel Hill walkability

They are conducting a survey involving questions asking how often people walk downtown, how much they walk and how much money they spend at Chapel Hill businesses.

Molly De Marco, a research fellow at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, initiated the survey.

De Marco said she and Seth Lajeunesse, a researcher at The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, are conducting the survey, and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is offering gifts as incentives to participants to complete the survey.

The survey is being sent to people on the Partnership’s listserv. De Marco said she hopes to get 200 participants for the survey, which will close in a month.

The results of this survey might be published in an academic journal, De Marco said. Surveyors hope to observe residents’ walking behaviors.

She said the Partnership is planning to install signs showing how much time it takes for walkers to get to different places across town. She said the Partnership hopes the signs will  encourage people to walk more.

Lajeunesse said the signs will probably be installed in mid-September. He said after the signs are installed, another round of surveys will be conducted.

“We are gonna follow up with the same individuals again after the signs are installed to see if anything has changed,” he said.

The results of this survey will also be used to analyze how people’s walking behavior affects Chapel Hill’s businesses. One question asked on the survey is about the amount of money walkers spend at Chapel Hill’s businesses.

Lajeunesse said they are exploring if there is a positive correlation between people’s walking distance and the amount of money they spend in downtown businesses.

“There has been some research to show that you are more likely to spend money if you actually walk in front of businesses instead of driving by,” said De Marco.

Bobby Funk, assistant director of the Partnership, said the survey focuses more on observing people’s walking habits than promoting Chapel Hill’s businesses.

“We want to promote health lifestyle, which includes walking and other forms of alternative transportation,” he said.

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