Examining Walkability and Social Capital as Indicators of Quality of Life at the Municipal and Neighborhood Scales
- 2.6k Downloads
Walkability has been linked to quality of life in many ways. Health related benefits of physical exercise, the accessibility and access benefits of being able to walk to obtain some of your daily needs, or the mental health and social benefits of reduced isolation are a few of the many positive impacts on quality of life that can result from a walkable neighborhood. In the age of increasing energy costs and climate considerations, the ability to walk to important locations is a key component of sustainable communities. While the health and environmental implications of walkable communities are being extensively studied, the social benefits have not been investigated as broadly. Social capital is a measure of an individual’s or group’s networks, personal connections, and involvement. Like economic and human capital, social capital is considered to have important values to both individuals and communities. Through a case study approach this article argues that the generation and maintenance of social capital is another important component of quality of life that may be facilitated by living in a walkable community. Residents living in neighborhoods of varying built form and thus varying levels of walkability in three communities in New Hampshire were surveyed about their levels of social capital and travel behaviors. Comparisons between the more walkable and less walkable neighborhoods show that levels of social capital are higher in more walkable neighborhoods.
KeywordsSocial capital Walkability Built environment Neighborhood scale
The research described in this paper has been funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship Program. EPA has not officially endorsed this publication and the views expressed herein may not reflect the views of the EPA. The authors would also like to Patricia Jarema of the University of New Hampshire for her assistance in reworking this manuscript.
- Adger, W. N. (2003) Social capital, collective action and adaptation to climate change, Economic Geography 79(4).Google Scholar
- Dillman, D. A. (2000). Mail and internet surveys. The tailored design method. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Frank, L. D., Sallis, J. F., Saelens, B. E., Leary, L., Cain, K., Conway, T. L., et al. (2009). Development of a Walkability Index: Application to the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study. British Journal of Sports Medicine.Google Scholar
- Frumkin, H., Frank, L., & Jackson, R. (2004). Urban sprawl and public health-designing, planning and building for healthy communities. Washington: Island.Google Scholar
- Jarema, P., Halstead, J., & Conway, K. (2009). Civic Engagement and Land Use Policy Change: Does Social Capital Affect Ecosystem Service Flows? Paper Presentation Northeast Agriculture and Resource Economics Annual Conference, Burlington, VT, June 7–9.Google Scholar
- Krizek, K. (2003). Residential relocation and changes in urban travel: does neighborhood-scale urban form matter? JAPA, 69(3), 265–281.Google Scholar
- Oldenburg, R. (1999). The great good place. New York: Marlowe & Company.Google Scholar
- Prakash, S. & Selle, P. (2004) Investigating social capital: comparative perspectives on civil society, participation, and governance. New Delhi: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Sirgy, M. J., Rahtz, D., & Swain, D. (2006). Community Quality of Life Indicators. Best Cases II. Social Indicators Research Series. Vol. 28. Springer.Google Scholar