In a new article for the journal Social Science Research, researchers have found that people in major US cities would walk more if all the major US metropolitan areas had the exact same amount and share of residents.
The research is based on the assumption that the more people live in a city, the more likely they are to walk to work.
“We find that this is the case,” said study author Dr Richard Parker, a doctoral student in sociology at Texas A&M University.
“In fact, we find that if we take the average walkers from all major cities in America, we would have a much larger walking population than the cities of the same size.”
Parker’s work on the effect of living near major metropolitan areas was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Houston.
The study, “Population and transit in large metropolitan areas: The effects of living close to the city”, was based on data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the National Center for Health Statistics’ American Community Surveys.
Using data from census tracts, the researchers found that in large metro areas with more than 5 million people, the number of residents who walk to or from work would be 10.5 per cent higher if all metropolitan areas in the country had the amount of residents of Utah, Arizona, and Texas, the US’s most populous state, that the researchers estimated to have about the same population density.
“If Utah, AZ and Texas had the size of Texas, they would have an average walker of 11.5 people per square kilometre, or a walker per square mile of about 5.5 times as much walking as Utah,” Parker said.
“This is much higher than the current walker density in these areas, which is about 1.5 walking per square metre for Utah, or about one walking per cubic kilometre for Arizona.”
It’s like a very large mountain that can be seen from the city.
“Parkers co-author Dr Jonathan Mott said they used census data to estimate the walkers that a city’s population would need to be in order to have a walkable urban area.”
The problem with that is that the Census Bureau didn’t provide that information to us,” Mott told RTE.”
So we tried to use a different approach to calculate the walkable population that we need in order for a city to have walkable areas.
“But the Census Center doesn’t actually have that information, so we had to work with the Census to get it.”
The authors estimated that in Texas, where most of the US is concentrated, the walker share would be 1.3 per cent in Utah, and 0.7 per cent for Arizona, while the walk-to-work share would increase to 0.4 per cent and 0 per cent, respectively, in the Utah metropolitan area.
They found that the walk to walk share in Texas would decrease to 0 per of population per square kilometres in Utah and Arizona, compared to Utah and Texas having the same share in the rest of the United States.
“These are the kinds of estimates that are useful for getting estimates of the impact of living closer to cities, but they don’t provide a good estimate of the effect on walking,” Motto said.
While walking to work is generally considered a positive factor in the health of cities, the research suggests that there is more to the picture.
“One of the big questions in social science is whether or not cities are associated with lower mortality, or if cities are just a place to live for people,” Parker told Rte.
“And this research is helping us answer that question.”
Parkes research found that those living near big cities were more likely to have high rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
“People living near urban centres are more likely than people living farther away to have all three of those,” Parker explained.
“And people who are in large cities are much more likely for all three things.”
For more information about the study, visit the link below: