9

Walkable Neighborhoods

Principles, Measures, and Health Impacts

Tim G. Townshend

Newcastle University, U.K.

Introduction

Walking is still one of the most common ways for people to get about in their locality. Walking is positive in many ways: it promotes opportunities for social interaction between neighbors; it is a socially inclusive activity since it is free and needs no special equipment; and it provides healthy exercise. It should be possible for people to incorporate walking into their everyday routines; for example, when traveling to work or school, or in other aspects of daily life. However, as well as walking for transport—that is, to get from one place to another—people also walk as a leisure time activity and the places we live should offer plenty of opportunity for this too. Many aspects of the built environment have the capacity to either provide opportunities for, or place constraints on, walking. How close our places of work, schools, and shops are to where we live, for example, will determine whether it is practically possible to walk to them. Many other factors also come into play that influence our decision to walk or not: whether there are easy, direct routes; if sidewalks are well maintained; or if there are lots of interesting things to see on the way. Walking is a convenient and sustainable way of getting around and it is a valuable form of exercise known to have benefits for health, for example, by helping individuals to maintain healthy weight levels. ...

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