Equity in neighbourhood walkability? A comparative analysis of three large U.S. cities

This study examines the spatial and statistical relationships between social vulnerability (SV) and neighbourhood walkability across three large U.S. cities with different urban typologies and development patterns: Charlotte, NC (a low-density, fast-growing “Sunbelt” city); Pittsburgh, PA (a moderate density, shrinking “Rust Belt” city); and Portland, OR (a progressive West Coast city known for its sprawl-containment policies). Binary logistic regression, independent-samples t-tests, and mapping techniques are employed to determine whether neighbourhoods with high SV (i.e. older populations, higher poverty rates, more service occupations, lower educational attainment, and a higher proportion of minorities) are as likely as those with low SV to exhibit a high degree of walkability. The publically available Walk Score® metric, based on proximity to amenities, street network connectivity, and density, was used as a proxy for neighbourhood walkability. The results indicate significant variability among cities, with Charlotte exhibiting the greatest potential for inequitable access to walkable urban environments and the most prominent concentration of “walk-vulnerable” block groups (BGs) with high SV and low walkability. Both Portland and Pittsburgh exhibited more equitable access when comparing BGs with high and low SV; however, they each presented unique spatial patterns, visualised using a series of maps.

Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability, and its publisher Taylor & Francis, have partnered with Pando to feature select article abstracts.  Click here to find links to the full article.

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Bradley Bereitschaft

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