Creating Walkable Communities through Zoning Regulations: Best Practices

Research Product(s)

See our primer and fact sheets on using zoning regulations to foster walkability in your community.


A strategic priority of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity is to "Make communities more walkable through community design and planning." This strategy supported the 2015 campaign "Step It Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities." Being physically active is one of the most important steps that people of all ages and abilities can take to improve their health. Increasing people's physical activity levels will significantly reduce their risk of chronic diseases and premature death and support positive mental health and healthy aging.

The ways in which communities are designed and built can present barriers to walking. For communities that want to address those barriers, improving zoning policies are a key step. Community and street design policies are recommended approaches for increasing physical activity, including walking. Effective zoning policies such as complete streets and smart growth design have been identified and many communities have passed these types of policies. For those communities that have passed policies, or are considering passage there is an immediate need to develop translation materials to identify, pass, and implement these effective policies.

This research project translates the team’s findings from prior zoning research, Impact of Zoning Code Reforms on the Built Environment and Physical Activity Behaviors, into a suite of products that describe critical components of zoning regulations that are associated with increased walking and/or physical activity. The products will include fact sheets, definitions, zoning regulations, policy briefs, a webinar, and slide deck. These products are intended for use with grantees who work on environmental approaches to increase physical activity. This project will help insure that the zoning policies that are passed include the best elements to increase physical activity, once they are implemented.

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Related publications

Nicholson LM, Leider J, Chriqui JF. Exploring the linkage between activity-friendly zoning, inactivity, and cancer incidence in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2017 Apr;26(4):578-586.

Chriqui JF, Leider J, Thrun E, Nicholson LM, Slater SJ. Pedestrian-oriented zoning is associated with reduced income and poverty disparities in adult active travel to work, United States. Prev Med. 2017 Feb;95 Suppl:S126-S133.

Leider J, Chriqui JF, Thrun E. Associations between active living-oriented zoning and no adult leisure-time physical activity in the U.S. Prev Med. 2017 Feb;95S:S120-S125.

Thrun E, Leider J, Chriqui JF. Exploring the cross-sectional association between transit-oriented development zoning and active travel and transit usage in the United States, 2010-2014. Front Pub Health. 2016 Jun 3;4:113.

Slater SJ, Nicholson L, Abu Zayd H, Chriqui JF. Does pedestrian danger mediate the relationship between local walkability and active travel to work? Front Public Health. 2016;4:89.

Chriqui JF, Leider J, Thrun E, Nicholson LM, Slater S. Communities on the move: pedestrian-oriented zoning as a facilitator of adult active travel to work in the United States. Front Public Health. 2016 Apr 18;4:71.

Chriqui JF, Nicholson LM, Thrun E, Leider J, Slater SJ. More active living–oriented county and municipal zoning is associated with increased adult leisure time physical activity—United States, 2011. Environ Behav. 2016;48(1):111-130. [See abstract.