In a recent article on Placemakers, Kaid Benfield discusses the latest research on walkability and what makes a neighborhood healthy. He states that walkability alone is not enough and to be truly healthy, we need green spaces in our communities, especially in urban areas. Although city living has some health benefits, it poses numerous risks as well, such as high concentrations of air pollution and high noise levels, which can lead to mental health issues, cardiovascular problems, and stress. Despite these downsides, cities can support healthy living with the right walkable neighborhoods.
Benfield talks about past studies that have been done that correlate health and neighborhood characteristics. According to research, attributes such as distance to amenities, population density, safety, and connected sidewalks all contribute to a neighborhood’s walkability. Neighborhoods with these attributes also tend to have more favorable health outcomes as well. There have also been studies that show that residents living in greener neighborhoods live longer than residents who don’t. Residents of greener neighborhoods experience not only better physical health, but mental as well. However, when it comes to combining city walkability and nature, not much is being done. In the article, Benfield delves further into reasons why implementing diverse green spaces into urban areas would be beneficial to one’s quality of life.
Ultimately, we should incorporate elements of nature into municipal planning, and make sure that urban land use policy and zoning – which already is trending toward walkability and city density – does not neglect steps we also need to take to make our communities visibly green. Above all, let’s make sure we don’t chase people who seek the benefits of nature away from cities.