Landscape Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 323–340 | Cite as

Walkability in urban landscapes: a comparative study of four large cities in China

  • Peilei FanEmail author
  • Guanghua Wan
  • Lihua Xu
  • Hogeun Park
  • Yaowen Xie
  • Yong Liu
  • Wenze Yue
  • Jiquan Chen
Research Article



Walkability is an important element for assessing the sustainability of urban landscapes. There are increased concerns that as the world becomes more urbanized, cities become less walkable.


We aim to develop a composite walkability index to evaluate the spatio-temporal pattern of the walkability of cities. By using the index to evaluate four major cities China, we also aim to provide policy implications.


A comprehensive walkability index is developed to integrate five aspects of the urban built environment: dwelling density, street connectivity, land-use mix, access to public transit, and flatness. Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chongqing, and Lanzhou are chosen as case studies to evaluate the spatio-temporal patterns and changes of walkability in the context of rapid urban expansion.


Great variations exist among the four cities in terms of speed, scale, and locations of changes of walkability. During 2000–2010, the inner cities of Hangzhou, Chongqing, and Lanzhou and the entire cities of Shanghai and Chongqing increased their walkability index, whereas the inner city of Shanghai had decreased walkability. Furthermore, while inner cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou experienced decreased or stable walkability, the inner cities of Lanzhou and Chongqing enjoyed moderate to high increases in walkability. For inner cities, Shanghai had the highest average walkability index, whereas Lanzhou held the lowest in 2010.


The spatiotemporal changes in walkability seem to be closely associated with governmental policies and planning. The walkability index method can be widely implemented for any urban landscape because of its comprehensiveness, simplicity, and flexibility.


Walkability index Urban landscape Dwelling density Street connectivity Land-use mix Public transit Flatness 



We would like to acknowledge the direct funding support for this study from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the project “The Urbanization-Poverty-Inequality Triangle in Asia and the Pacific” (Contract # 117554-S83862). We also acknowledge financial support from the Land Cover and Land Use Program of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (NNX09AI32G and NNX15AD51G), the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Projects 71133004, 71063022, and 41771534), and Yunnan Province’s Bairen Jihua. We thank Huiqing Huang, Manjiang Shi and Yachao Mu for assistance in processing data from Shanghai and Lanzhou. We also thank Gabriela Shirkey and Connor Crank for editing the manuscript. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ADB, NASA, or NSFC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peilei Fan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Guanghua Wan
    • 2
  • Lihua Xu
    • 3
  • Hogeun Park
    • 1
  • Yaowen Xie
    • 4
  • Yong Liu
    • 5
  • Wenze Yue
    • 6
  • Jiquan Chen
    • 7
  1. 1.School of Planning, Design, and Construction and Center for Global Change and Earth ObservationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Asian Development Bank InstituteTokyoJapan
  3. 3.College of Resource and EnvironmentZhejiang University of Agriculture and ForestryHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.School of Earth and Environment ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  5. 5.School of Construction Management and Real EstateChongqing UniversityChongqingPeople’s Republic of China
  6. 6.Institute of Land Science and Property ManagementZhejiang UniversityHangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  7. 7.Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Science and Center for Global Change and Earth ObservationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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