The Prince's Foundation, Knight Frank, Smart Growth Associates
Sometimes there is no choice: low density, monofunctional housing estates create car dependence. This is not only harmful for the environment but damaging to our mental and physical health. Car-dependency influences obesity and loneliness. In contrast, walkable places are healthy and sociable places.
Computer modelling can map everyday, non-residential uses and then measure how far they are from people’s homes. This is particularly influenced by the connectivity of the street network and the size of urban blocks. Is a route simple and direct or is it labyrinthine? Are there lanes and cut-throughs that make it easier to walk from A to B. Research shows that block sizes get smaller towards thriving urban centres and larger towards the edges. This means there is typically greater ‘permeability’ around the shops and markets at the heart of settlements where more people are, and less around the residential edges: a ‘natural’ relationship that ensures that all routes are continuously animated by human life, with a buzz towards the commercial centre and gentler levels of animation towards the edges.
The ‘Walkability’ heat maps describe the degree to which newer settlements have succeeded, or not, to emulate the lessons of historical places such as Clifton. By analysing each building in turn, it is possible to identify how many different everyday land uses are within a 5-minute walk. Poundbury scores highly, South Dorchester and Bradley Stoke less so. The database covers every building in Great Britain and allows existing places to be ‘footprinted’ so that new proposals can be tested in terms of whether they deliver walkability or car-dependence.
Space Syntax’s Walkability Index database covers every building in Great Britain. It allows existing places to be ‘footprinted’ so that new proposals can be objectively tested in terms of whether they deliver car-dependence – with its associated problems – or walkability – and the social, economic and environmental values that walkable places create.