Pollution and community walkability has been connected in a new study comparing the degree of ease for walking with local levels of air quality. Researchers have found that some neighbourhoods might be good for moving on foot, but the amount of pollution in the air makes it difficult.
Julian Marshall, from the University of Minnesota, and Michael Brauer and Lawrence Frank from University of British Columbia compared levels of pollutants, air quality and pollution in general throughout communities and neighbourhoods in Vancouver.
The team found that downtown areas have more pollution, but also are more walker-friendly. Suburban areas, on the other hand, are far less walker-friendly, but also have high levels of different types of pollution.
The neighbourhoods that have both a low level of pollution and are walker-friendly are a few miles from downtown centres. They call these the “win-win” neighbourhoods, but that they are rare – only 2% of areas.
“Research has shown that exposure to air pollution adversely affects human health by triggering or exacerbating a number of health issues such as asthma and heart disease,” said Marshall, from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology. “Likewise, physical inactivity is linked to an array of negative health effects including heart disease and diabetes. Neighborhood design can influence air pollution and walkability; more walkable neighborhoods may encourage higher daily activity levels.”
The study highlights the importance of neighbourhood location and design and its relationship to pollution levels. The researchers hope to further explore the “win-win” neighbourhoods for future urban design.
The study is published in the November 2009 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
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