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If we build 'walkable' neighborhoods, will people walk?
Date:6/25/2010

Edmontonians love their cars. In fact, 77 percent of us make all our trips by car. So if we know that it's healthier to walk, will developing more walkable neighbourhoods help to break the habit and get us walking to the store instead?

Researcher Marianne Clark in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation set out to investigate the factors that influence the decisions made by key stakeholders involved in neighbourhood development. She interviewed 17 stakeholders in neighbourhood development, including public health and municipal employees, city councilors, and private sector stakeholders including land developers and food retailers.

"We asked about their definition of a healthy neighbourhood. What they thought their role was; what facilitated their efforts to build healthy neighbourhoods and what barriers they experienced," says Clark. "We also wanted to know about 'food security' in essence the importance of the proximity of grocery stores with affordable healthy food choices."

"There were varying views among stakeholders as to whether walkable neighbourhoods are really going to make that much of a difference in making people active," says Clark. "While municipal employees and public health officials believed deeply in the value of these neighbourhoods, developers generally thought the extent of their responsibility was limited to market and consumer demands. They were also sceptical of the notion of 'if you built it, they will walk.' According to developers, it's up to the individual whether they choose to walk or not, regardless of the design of the neighbourhood, but they also acknowledged that our social norms and customs are very entrenched in car culture."

Private sector stakeholders said that people generally see success as having a single-family home. "To create affordable housing," notes Clark, "you have to build in the suburbs. There's a social hierarchy thing going on that may not change or disappear jus
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Contact: Jane Hurly
jane.hurly@ualberta.ca
780-492-6821
University of Alberta - Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation
Source:Eurekalert

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