New Research: city layouts control our mobility

| April 5, 2016
Israels Plads

Credit: Christina Nørdam Andersen

A new study published in the scientific journal The Lancet proves that the layout of your local neighbourhood determines your mobility choices, says the Danish newspaper Politiken.

The study is based on 6.800 adults in 14 cities across 10 countries, and determines that people living in neighbourhoods built to promote walking and cycling get up to 90 minutes of additional exercise per week. The critical factors turned out to be population density, number of intersections, number of stations and bus stops, and green areas near home.

Aarhus, the only Danish city in the study, swings in at number 6 on the list of most active cities, with its inhabitants being physically active 39,7 minutes per day. Baltimore, USA, had the lowest average of 29,2 minutes per day and Wellington, NZ, the highest with 50,1 minutes per day.

The Municipality of Aarhus is a member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, and is actively trying to improve the conditions for cyclists in their city, but it is a battle with years of suburban expansionism and a very hilly downtown area.

“Aarhus is not distinctly a bike-city. There are a lot of hills so people are less likely to choose the bike when returning home from the downtown area.  And the suburbs of Aarhus are almost as car reliant as in USA as there are large distances between schools, shopping, and jobs”, says Jens Troelsen, head researcher at the Active Living department at the University of Southern Denmark who has been responsible for the Danish part of the study.

At the Danish Cyclists’ Federation the CEO Klaus Bondam, says the study is stirring: “This is really interesting. The study clearly states that cities’ lay-out is quintessential to our lifestyle, and as such, the public health. It is actually quite simple – if you build bicycle paths, people will bike.”

The study showed the same results across culture and geography: The lay-out and infrastructure of a city was completely dominant for citizens’ physical activity.

Klaus Bondam goes on to say: “We know that people with shorter educations and fewer means are less physically activity. But a study documenting the effects on inhabitants’ behaviour through urban planning is a novelty. This has to catch the attention of the politicians. If we invest in cities for people and green infrastructure, instead of highways and reduced car taxation, we will also counteract the increasing social inequality.”

In other words this study cements what the Cycling Embassy of Denmark has been preaching for years. We know that our methods work and this recent study is just one of many proving that what we do, and the solutions we promote, work – and not only in Denmark but throughout the world.

Building green, sustainable, and liveable cities is hugely beneficial in the long run. According to the study “a comprehensive approach is needed to design activity supportive neighbourhoods”. This means that every aspect of a city must be built for people and interconnected with the city at large; planting a dozen trees while continuing to build isolated neighbourhoods inaccessible through walking, cycling, and public transportation is simply not an option. These fully interconnected solutions are exactly what the Cycling Embassy of Demark specializes in.

With the help of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark, the city of Aarhus is taking steps to insure a future with healthy and happy inhabitants. But real change requires politicians to act. Research cannot get much clearer than this, and the Cycling Embassy of Denmark is ready to build the cities of tomorrow whenever politicians allow it. You can read more on Aarhus and their initiatives for cyclists here.

Read more on Aarhus as a member of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark here.

Read the complete study at The Lancet.

Link to Politken’s article (in Danish).

Category: Commuting, Danish Cycling Know How, Facts and Figures, Health, Infrastructure, Intermodality, Meet the Members, Municipalities, Planning, Policy, Politics, Research

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