What makes a great hiking trail? The answer is the key to our happiness and well-being as we age

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With age, people often become less certain about walking. Fear of falling can limit the activity of elderly people, lead them to isolation.

So what makes a trail great for walking?

My colleagues and I investigated this question in a recent paper. We used an evidence-based method tool to measure passability city ​​roads – assessing not only the footpath itself, but also the elements around it.

The results can help urban designers make our cities more walkable, especially for elderly people.

What makes a footpath “passable”?

Only about 42% are people in Sydney and Melbourne live in areas with above average walkability. This compares poorly with people in Lisbon (99.2%), São Paulo (97%) and Hong Kong (96%).

Generally, the features that determine whether a path can be walked on fall into two categories.

Microdistrict level features refer to the general environment of the district, for example:

  • how well the streets are connected to each other. Do they offer a variety of accessible routes for daily commutes?

  • how densely built the living quarters are and how the amenities are distributed. Are there parks, train stations, cafes or shops within walking distance?

Level footpath features related to the safety, comfort and attractiveness of the footpath, such as:

  • such obstacles as tree roots and short sticks
  • track width
  • the convenience of transitional structures
  • green belts (eg grass and shrubs) and fences that separate pedestrians from traffic lanes
  • shadow area
  • street furniture
  • bikes riding on a track
  • vehicles parked on the driveway
  • noise from cars and other sources
  • a variety of streetscapes such as building facades, trees and meadows.

Previous studies of patency have confounded these two levels of function. But our research has broken them down to help urban designers identify which features are most important and which need improvement.

We focused on accessibility for seniors in the neighborhood. By 2050 every sixth person in the world will be over 65 years old – almost twice as many as in 2015. Australian Census data paints a similar picture.

Studies shows elderly people those who perceive their neighborhood as walkable are happier and more satisfied with life and less lonely.

Pedestrian cities help seniors, especially those with physical limitations– be more physically active, and contributes to stronger and more regular social connections.

It is therefore particularly important to determine how to make our streets more attractive to this age group.

What we found

Our research focused on the city of Shenzhen in China. Over the past 40 years, Shenzhen has developed into a metropolis city ​​planners historically, the needs of motorized traffic have been prioritized over those of pedestrians and cyclists.

Among the methods involved in our research, we asked 256 senior citizens to rate the features of the walking path to help us understand how much each of them affects their gait.

Respondents told us that bicycles on footpaths and vehicles parked on footpaths were the most important factors reducing walkability. They reported that cars parked on footpaths made the space too cramped increased risk injured by bicycles traveling on the footpath.

Convenient transitions were rated as the second most important feature of the track’s passability. This includes formal crossings such as zebra crossings and underpasses, as well as informal crossings such as quiet streets.

We employed two auditors to quantify how well each feature appeared on 11 sample walkways. The results showed that the way researchers quantify the quality of a footpath may differ from the senior citizens.

For example, we measured the quality of the green belt by the ratio of the length of the belt to the length of the footpath. But for the pedestrians we spoke to, no matter how wide the green haze is, it’s effective as long as it separates them from the lanes of traffic.

We also need walkable areas

Our research shows what makes a track good, but passability of the neighborhood is also important. If people have no walkable destinations or poorly connected streets, they will be deterred from walking, even if the footpath is of good quality.

And you have to remember that people perceive footpaths in different ways. An able-bodied young adult may find a footpath passable when it is difficult for an elderly person or young child to walk.

Every citizen has an equal right to use and enjoy the public space, and the design of the footpath should reflect this.


Greener and more walkable urban areas promote physical activity


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This article is reprinted from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. To read original article.Conversation

Citation: What makes a great hiking trail? Answer is the key to our happiness and well-being as we age (2022, October 25) Retrieved October 25, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-great-footpath-key-happiness- well-being .html

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