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871. A Longitudinal Study Examining Changes in Street Connectivity, Land Use, and Density of Dwellings and Walking for Transport in Brisbane, Australia

Case Study
Rebecca Bentley, Tony Blakely, Anne Kavanagh, Zoe Aitken, Tania King, Paul McElwee, Billie Giles-Corti, and Gavin Turrell
June 2018

Commentary by Laura Oakley, Active Living Coordinator NSW, Heart Foundation.

Residential density, land-use mix and street connectivity are three important elements in the creation of neighbourhoods which support adults to walk for transport. The combination of these characteristics are not new to planners, and the recent study led by Bentley et al. has added further evidence to cement these as necessities in our urban areas. The study follows on from previous HABITAT research. HABITAT (How Areas in Brisbane Influence healTh And acTivity) is a longitudinal multi-level study of physical activity among people aged 40+ years living in Brisbane. With over 11,000 participants and 200 neighbourhoods, it is one of the largest studies of its kind. 

The study concluded that an increase in the presence of these characteristics was associated with a increase in rates of walking for transport in local areas for older adults (ages 40-65 years).  The three characteristics:

Residential density: The study used dwellings per hectare of residential land to measure density. Higher densities can support a greater variety of commercial activity, public transport nodes and also reduces the distances that a pedestrian is required to travel to reach these services.

Land-use mix: Five types of land-use were accounted for within the study: residential, industrial, commercial, recreation/leisure and other. The presence of multiple destinations within proximity to residential areas and each other encourages people to walk to access the destinations.

Street connectivity: Connectivity was measured by how many 4-way intersections were present within a 1km radius of the residential address of each participant. Grid layouts are understood to be the street patterns more conducive to pedestrian use, as they provide a variety of route choices, and have few barriers to direct travel, such as dead ends. 

In Australia, walking is the most common form of physical activity. The study also found that walking for transport deceased for each age group between 40-65 years. With this information in mind, it is important to make our physical environments as conducive to healthy behaviours as possible.  The main implication for urban planners and built environment professionals from this study is that if built environments are altered to make it easier to walk, people walk more for transport. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it?

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives Access to this article may depend on your institutional rights: Access the full article here.