Walkable/Bikeable Community Maps

Katherine McCarville, Upper Iowa University


Create maps of walkable-bikeable routes in your local community. Identify routes by their characteristics for pedestrians and bike riders. Locate areas where improvements may be most beneficial.


Type and level of course
GIS course at the junior (300) level. First GIS course in the environmental science curriculum.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
Understanding of maps, projections. It is a very good activity for students learning to acquire GPS data and populate attribute tables. It uses point and line data primarily.

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
None, although for final maps, you may want to use an aerial photograph as the background.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
I use ArcInfo, you could use any version. You could actually do this activity without GIS software.

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
Depends on the size of the area chosen. A map for a small campus or community might be created in a couple of lab periods.


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment

  • Acquire GPS data, both points and lines
  • Populate attribute tables
  • Optional: Find and use municipal or state department of transportation GIS information on roads and walking/bike trails
  • Optional: Find and use aerial photographs as background for final maps

Other content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Optional: Students create trail guides/podcasts for walkers/bike riders that identify and describe points of geological, historical or environmental interest
  • Optional: Delineating safe routes to local schools for young pedestrians and bike riders

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • Working with a team
  • Working with an external client
  • Selecting and prioritizing potential projects to improve the walkability/bikeability of a community or neighborhood

Description of the activity/assignment

To begin the activity, students review criteria for walkable/bikeable routes and communities. A client or clients from the community/campus may be selected, and students would meet with the clients to determine their goals. Students begin the mapping effort, while learning to use GPS to acquire point and line/route data. They establish (or find in the literature) a scheme for identifying the characteristics of roadways, sidewalks and trails. As the map takes shape, they begin to identify areas where improvements may be needed. The final product (deliverable) is a short report and map. The exact specifications of the final report and map will depend upon the client's goals.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students present their results to the client, and the presentation is graded. The final map and report are also graded. The client, instructor, and the students evaluate the quality of the deliverables.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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