15.3 Urban Design: Walkability (2)

Author: Thomas Mead

ABSTRACT: Walkability is a measurable factor in areas to determine how friendly an area is to walk in. Effects of walkability can greatly vary, they include but are not limited to climate change, traffic, economy and general health


Walkability in the simplest terms is the ability to walk in a certain area. This definition can be expanded on to include public transportation, biking, accessible walking, safety and green spaces. Upon expanding the definition of walkability, it brings in other factors that can improve the community in urban areas. Keeping with the 1.5 degree lifestyle, it is a significant shift from vehicular travel towards greener forms of transportation like bicycles, public transportation or walking.

Improving walkability also has a massive impact on emissions from vehicles. Vehicles contribute more than any other factor to carbon emissions in the modern day. By increasing walkability, more people are encouraged to walk and thus less people need to drive. This not only has environmental benefits but economic benefits. It decreases the costs individuals need to spend on auto maintenance, insurance, gas and other expenses that come with owning a vehicle. 

Increasing walkability also significantly increases the safety of areas, as more eyes are on the street, and it is therefore safer to walk. It also prevents people from walking on unsafe, busy roads. Furthermore it decreases auto accidents, as less people need to commute via car when they need to move around the area. Overall, improving walkability in areas is a key to improving the quality of life for those who inhabit it . 

To improve walkability, certain criteria must be met by urban planners. First, there must be a proper need to walk, meaning people must need a place to walk to. This could be a job, a shop, community center, or anything that is within walking distance. Secondly, the walk must feel safe. While this can mean safe from crime, it also must be safe physically. Pedestrians are much less likely to walk if they have to walk on small sidewalks next to busy roads, as opposed to spacious roads with barriers between them and larger roads. Thirdly, the walk must be comfortable, meaning it must include enough space for multiple people, and must not put any strain on the average person. Lastly, walkability must work with interest of the person at mind. The walk they take must be interesting for the person walking. If they are walking by subdivision after subdivision, they are less likely to walk anywhere. 


4 Ways to Make a City More Walkable. TEDx, 2017. https://youtu.be/6cL5Nud8d7w

CERIN, ESTER, BRIAN E. SAELENS, JAMES F. SALLIS, and LAWRENCE D. FRANK. “Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 38, no. 9 (2006): 1682–91. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000227639.83607.4d.

O’Hanlon, Julia, and Jacquelyn Scott. “Healthy Communities: The Walkability Assessment Tool.” University of Delaware Library and Museum Press, December 22, 2010. 


Thomas Mead is a third-year student in Environmental Sustainability and Urban Development. He currently has worked internationally studying sustainable methods regarding city planning and building. He hopes to expand these thoughts and ideas to developing countries in Latin America, where he plans to continue his research and work after graduating. 

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