What’s up with ‘walkability’?
The result of planning and designing cities on a more human scale, is that their inhabitants can slow their pace of living and increase their quality of life. For example, there would be less commuting and sitting in traffic because most of their daily needs would be taken care of within easy walking distance. Many cities across the world are approving the development of mixed-use precincts, where different types of property co-exist in a single location. Typically, it would be residential, retail and commercial property, which means people can live, work and enjoy their downtime conveniently close by.
These types of urban areas are found all over the world and the vast majority of them have walkability at their core. If such a precinct is walkable, it means far fewer cars, a user-friendly street grid that makes it quick and easy to traverse, inviting public places, great civic spaces, areas of greenery, water features and more.
But in mixed-use areas like the upcoming Harbour Arch development in Cape Town, walkability is about more than getting around on foot – it’s about health benefits and providing places where people enjoy spending time.
A Harvard study found that strategies around walkable environments and improving walkability are address many issues – lifestyle factors and diseases associated with obesity, deserted city centres, traffic and congestion, pollution and other environmental factors, social isolation and more. So ‘walkability’ covers a lot of ground! It…
- boosts sustainability by reductions in our carbon footprint;
- provides the type of mobility that encourages less driving and more non-motorised, healthier ways of getting around – like walking or cycling;
- cuts in transportation costs, time spent sitting in traffic, congestion and pollution;
- eases environmental impact by decreasing the need for factories to produce cars and refine fuel, cutting down on the transportation of vehicles and fuel to where they’ll be used, thereby lowering the impact on road surfaces, which means less need for costly road maintenance;
- stimulates small, thriving pockets of economic activity in multiple parts of a city, not only in the main business or shopping areas; and
- enables public life, social cohesion and a sense of community by way of multiple open-air spaces.
Jeff Speck, author of the bestselling Walkable City, says the conventional thinking was that creating a strong economy would lead to increased population and a higher quality of life. But now the converse is true, where creating better quality of life is the first step to attracting new residents and jobs. So, given how walkability has been shown to boost quality of life, it will undoubtedly play an important role in the future of our cities and our lives.