Walkable neighborhoods are happy neighborhoods, finds study

Walkable neighborhoods are happy neighborhoods, finds study

City residents are happier living in walkable neighborhoods, reports a study published in the latest Journal of the American Planning Association.

Based on pre-pandemic surveys in Dublin, Ireland, researchers found that a “significant number of people are happier if they live in attractive, walkable places that enable social connections and trust in others.”

The study builds on many others which have reported similar findings.

“Many people appear to benefit from living in walkable places where residents can walk to attain their daily needs in local shops, cafes, schools, parks, and places for social, leisure, and worship activities,” the study states.

Project lead Kevin Leyden, a professor of political science and public policy at the University of Galway, told Forbes.com that the often fractious current debate over “low traffic neighborhoods” and 15-minute cities could be calmed by using terminology such as “walkable neighborhoods.”

“I don’t understand the divisiveness about 15-minute cities or who is fueling it,” he said.

“The concept is as old as cities themselves.”

The use of “walkable neighborhood” as a term “sounds more personal,” said Leyden.

Leyden and his co-authors from the universities of Dublin and Ulster argue that baking in car dependency was a design decision and one that should be reversed.

“For the planning system to deliver more walkable neighborhoods, pedestrian needs would have to be prioritized over motor vehicles,” says the study.

The researchers have called for an “evaluation of the way our urban and suburban neighborhoods are planned, designed, and developed so that people can live in walkable places that better enable health and wellbeing.”

They say their study provides “additional empirical evidence that should encourage planners, engineers, politicians, developers, financial institutions, and related professions to have an open dialogue about the barriers and enablers to building new walkable neighborhoods that support social connections, better health, and an improved quality of daily life.”

The study says spread-out amenities should also be within easy reach of public transit. “Zoning codes would have to permit mixed-use pedestrian-oriented development with access to effective public transportation networks,” recommend the authors regarding walkable neighborhoods.  MORE

Photo by Ono Kosuki

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