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Quality of the broader walking environment

Explore how the broader walking environment impacts the walkability of an area.
Young woman on side street with smartphone held up to her ear smiling, urban gardens to left of image thick with vegetation, buildings blurred in background
© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility

The broader walking environment impacts the walkability of an area. Pleasant areas facilitate walking. These include areas with aesthetic appeal with interesting street scapes, buildings, gardens, street trees and less traffic.

Street scapes

Interesting street scapes can include architectural features and buildings (e.g. Amsterdam), or places where there are nice gardens and street flowers – either privately owned or maintained by the government.

Image by RossHelen via Envato Elements.

Tree lined streets and boulevards contribute to the aesthetic and broader walking environment (e.g. Paris).

Image by RossHelen via Envato Elements.

Trees create cooler environments and mitigate urban heat island effects (e.g. Singapore) and protect pedestrians from the sun and pollution.

Image by siraphol via Envato Elements.

Air quality in cities is impacted by traffic and particulate matter that comes from the exhausts of petrol driven cars and industrial sources. Whilst many streets are designed to accommodate vehicles, streets with less traffic or with slow moving traffic are more pedestrian friendly because they are less noisy and dangerous.

Low traffic neighbourhoods

As a way of creating people centric places, many cities now use low traffic neighbourhoods (e.g. London) which are designed to curtail car use in residential streets and promote active modes of travel such as walking, cycling and travelling by wheelchair. They aim to create a more pleasant environment for pedestrians and cyclists by using seating and planting boxes or movable bollards to restrict traffic in pedestrian zones making it safer for pedestrians and residents to enjoy their streets.

Seating is important infrastructure that not only provides a place for people to rest, but when carefully designed seating can contribute to the quality of a place by providing a place to socialise in. Seating is cited by older people as an important part of the environment that is often lacking.

Age friendly cities

The broader walking environment, quality and maintenance of pavements (see step 2.2), contribute to the age-friendliness of an area.

This approach is covered by the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Cities which aims to provide spaces that are inclusive and accommodating of all people across their lifespan, from the very young to the very old.

Image by oneinchpunchphotos via Envato Elements.

The Age Friendly Cities framework covers eight domains to help support actions and policies for developing cities that are age friendly. These domains include:

  • community and health care
  • housing
  • transportation
  • outdoor spaces and buildings
  • community support and health services
  • communication and information
  • social participation
  • respect and social inclusion
  • civic participation and employment.

Your task

In the comments below, write a short summary of what you learned during this step. If another learner writes a similar summary, reply to their comment adding one more thing you’d like to have covered.

Further resources

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

Revisiting the cooling effects of urban greening: Planning implications of vegetation types and spatial configuration.

Turning down the heat: An enhanced understanding of the relationship between urban vegetation and surface temperature at the city scale

Impacts of 2020 low traffic neighbourhoods in London on road traffic injuries

© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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Designing Walkability in Cities

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