about safe walking for children showing two school kids walking on urban streetWalking can equitably allow people to access employment, community services, and natural environments, building a sense of community.

Experiences from New Zealand, and internationally, that support this are outlined below:

  • Enabling children to walk safely around their neighbourhood and to school can help reduce congestion, encourage children to be physically active and gain independence. One of the most significant impediments to walking to school is “stranger danger”.[1] If lighting is good, vegetation is not overgrown, and fences are low then “eyes on the street” (natural, passive surveillance) from residents and other passers-by help alleviate this concern.[2]
  • Active transport to school not only incorporates physical activity into students' daily lives but also contributes to environmental and social benefits for communities.[3]
  • An Irish survey of 750 households showed that residents of pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighbourhoods have higher levels of social capital (how well neighbours know and trust each other, political participation, and social engagement) than residents of automobile-oriented neighbourhoods.[4]
  • Pedestrian-friendly streets create opportunities for people to meet and interact, helping to create community networks. Research conducted in Christchurch confirmed the seminal work of Appleyard in showing that residents of lower traffic volume streets are more likely to know their neighbours and show more concern over their local environment than residents of streets with higher traffic volumes and speeds.[5]
  • Surveys of residents in different neighbourhoods in Perth found the “sense of community was positively associated with walking for transport”[6]
  • Hobsonville Point, Auckland is New Zealand’s largest master-planned residential development and was designed from the outset to achieve a vibrant community with an environmentally responsible focus[7]. Surveys show over 80% of residents feel safe and are able to walk. Although the surveyors did not attempt to assess correlation, they found a strong sense of community and appreciation for the walkable urban design.


[1] Cheyne, Christine, Imran, M., Ahmed, W., Potroz, C. (2017). Barriers to Active Transport in Palmerston North: Experiences and Perspectives of Secondary School Students(external link)

[2] Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities

[3] Mason, C. (2000). Transport and health: en route to a healthier Australia? The Medical Journal of Australia 172, 230-232.

[4] Leyden, K.M. (2003). Social Capital and the Built Environment: The Importance of Walkable Neighborhoods. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9),1546–1551

[5] Koorey, G. and Chesterman, R. (2010). Assessing the Environmental Capacity of Local Residential Streets. World Conference on Transport Research, Lisbon.

[6] French, S., Wood, L., Alexandra, S., Foster, B.G., Lawrence, F. and Learnihan, V. (2013), Sense of Community and Its Association With the Neighbourhood Built Environment, Environment and Behavior, 46 (6), 677-69.

[7] Haarhoff, et al. (2019). Living at Density in Hobsonville Point, Auckland: Resident Perceptions. National Science Challenge 11: Building Better Homes Towns and Cities(external link)