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Recreation, demographics and equity

Explore some of the key reasons why people walk.
Young woman in eyeglasses walking along the street with architectural buildings and talking on smartphone.
© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility

The walkability of an area is related to a combination of urban design and infrastructure. Placemaking, and the location of shops, services, and transport are foundational aspects of liveability which support local living and active behaviour such as walking.

Reasons for walking

Transport-walking trips

Whilst walking is associated with walkable areas, the amount of walking that people do is influenced by the purpose and by the built environment such as:

  • access to shops and services
  • employment and activity centres
  • frequent easy-to-access public transport.

These are referred to as transport-walking trips or utilitarian-walking trips.

Recreational trips

Trips taken for recreational purposes where the main aim of walking is for exercise or pleasure, tend to be influenced by the aesthetic features of urban areas, such as greenery and trees, or the presence of recreational facilities.

Such trips relate to the presence of different features in urban areas and require careful planning to create high quality environments that accommodate varied motivations for walking.

Image by valeriygoncharukphoto via Envato Elements.

Walking inequality

There are other factors that influence the walkability of an area. A person’s sociodemographic characteristics influence their physical activity and walking behaviours. Research has found that physical activity and walking is influenced by:

  • gender
  • age
  • occupation
  • level of education.

For example, women are more sensitive to the urban environment and prefer safety, lighting and crime-free environments to walk around.

Less walkable areas

Not all urban areas are walkable, and people living in areas with lower walkability tend to walk less. Often poor-quality environments are more affordable attracting people with less money.

This can lead to a double disadvantage. People with less money living in low quality environments where it’s harder to access shops, services, transport and employment, can experience negative impacts on their health and wellbeing across their lifespan, further exacerbating their disadvantage. This is known as socio-spatial inequity and we’ll explore this in more detail in week two.

Image by peus80 via Envato Elements.

Further resources

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

In search of walking equality: 70% of Indigenous people in Sydney live in neighbourhoods with low walkability

Exploring inequities in housing affordability through an analysis of walkability and house prices by neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage

Life Stage and Sex Specificity in Relationships between the Built and Socioeconomic Environments and Physical Activity

Deprivation amplification revisited; or, is it always true that poorer places have poorer access to resources for healthy diets and physical activity?

© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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Designing Walkability in Cities

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