Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis



First Advisor

Chris Upchurch


In many U.S. cities the availability of quality greenspace has diminished in recent decades. With less greenspace for recreation and physical fitness, American society has been described as an `obesogenic' community that does not encourage healthy lifestyles. One method several cities have adopted that can help address obesity is constructing urban greenways that offer opportunities for exercise.

There are questions regarding which populations the greenways serve. Certain populations are more vulnerable to obesity. Because people who live in close proximity more likely to use the trail, this raises an environmental justice concern about whether vulnerable groups have equal opportunities to participate in physical activity.

These issues give rise to several research questions: Is there equity of access to greenways, measured by network proximity, amongst demographic groups vulnerable to obesity, primarily minority and low-income neighborhoods? Do greenways improve obesity rates of these same neighborhoods?

To answer these questions, a quantitative analysis centered on geographic information systems techniques has been performed on greenways in two metropolitan areas - Indianapolis and New York City. Service areas of the greenways were created using half-mile road network distances. Areal interpolation and disaggregation methods were used to calculate racial and ethnic population percentages and median income values for people at the census block level. Obese populations were assessed using a spatially balanced points algorithm in GIS. Resulting figures allow comparison between people within the greenway service area to the rest of those who live in the corresponding study area.