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Walkability and social connectedness

Explore how walkable areas create spaces for meaningful social connections.
Group of five friends walking along beach path on summer day, one with a guitar and one with a picnic basket, all smiling.
© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility

Walkable areas and walking not only provide opportunities for physical activity but also create spaces for meaningful social connections.

Urban areas and social connection

Even a simple greeting during a stroll can initiate a social connection between individuals. Social connections between people strengthen social ties and foster a sense of community and social cohesion, enabling people to feel safe, experience a sense of belonging, and enhance their overall well-being, reducing feelings of loneliness in urban environments.

Moreover, increased social interaction contributes to building a sense of place and ownership. As individuals engage more with their surroundings, communities can develop a collective memory and identity. This communal experience further enriches the fabric of a neighbourhood, creating a vibrant and interconnected environment.

Of course, there is more to social connection than just casual interactions. Social connection can happen at the community level through planned or unplanned community events where people develop informal relationships with other people they are familiar with.

Image by alvanfotografia via Envato Elements.

Enabling social connections

Urban areas have a role to play in supporting social cohesiveness. They provide sites where people can meet and socially connect with one another. Cafés or restaurants are commonly reserved as places for more formal social interaction, while public and semi-public spaces, such as libraries, parks, and squares provide settings for informal connections. This can extend to organised activities, such as weekend markets, or social activities that assist local communities to develop strong networks and support structures.

Similarly, social connections can be enhanced by providing walkable and liveable environments where there is a good mix of shops, services, and recreational facilities, such as community centres, with easy ways of accessing them. In other words, social connection happens more easily in walkable areas that have good access to social infrastructure.

Your task

Consider the benefits of walkability that you have explored so far, which three do you prioritise? Share your reasons with your fellow learners in the comments below.

Further resources

If you would like to explore some of the concepts we have covered in more detail, the following resources are optional.

The Relationship between Social Cohesion and Urban Green Space: An Avenue for Health Promotion

Using spatial measures to test a conceptual model of social infrastructure that supports health and wellbeing

Social infrastructure and the public life of cities: Studying urban sociality and public spaces

Neighborhood Walking and Social Connectedness

© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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Designing Walkability in Cities

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