Designing Walkable Future Neighbourhoods: Considering Diversity

Authors: Patricia Austin, Jacquelyn Collins, Kate Scanlen and Polly Smith



Walkable neighbourhoods are one of the holy grails of current urban planning and design. The perceived benefits of walkable neighbourhoods are wide ranging. However, much of the research that supports this endeavour is based on the notion of an adult able-bodied walker. In reality, pedestrians are as diverse as the population itself – with different physical, social, cultural, emotional and financial abilities and resources to navigate the neighbourhood landscape. It is critically important that this diversity is recognised at the design and planning stages of future ‘walkable’ neighbourhoods, as a failure to do so may exclude people from walking in their own neighbourhood. It is also important that we recognise that the resident population of a neighbourhood is not static, people will arrive and leave, all residents will age; some will become less able over time (through injury or illness); and some children will be borne to families living in the neighbourhood. This means that the planning and design of all neighbourhoods needs to recognise not only a level of diversity for the ‘first’ residents but also that this diversity is likely to increase over time.

This Working Paper consist of a review of the literature relevant to three vulnerable and often overlooked groups when designing neighbourhoods: children, older people and people with a disability. For ease of use, each review is presented as a separate Part, with its own Bibliography. In conclusion, the review identifies both commonalities between the needs of the three population groups for creating more liveable and accessible neighbourhoods and contradictions between the needs of different individuals. Recognising these contradictions is an important step in resolving them. Ignoring the diverse needs of people of different abilities and ages is not the way to go.