Fat Loss City

Two thirds of England and Wales are obese! This piece in the Guardian looks at ways cities can lose weight. I was intrigued by the mention ...

Two thirds of England and Wales are obese!

This piece in the Guardian looks at ways cities can lose weight. I was intrigued by the mention of walkscore, a website that scores a city’s walkability by proximity to amenities. So if you lived a few hundred metres within all your needs - school, work, supermarket, gym, nursery, dojo, fencing club, park etc - then presumably you’d get top points (100) on the walkscore. But imagine if you lived 50 metres within all your needs, how much walking would you do? Walkscore, as a measure of a cities walkability, is limited. It is a measure of proxemics. It is also measuring this against the automobile, their slogan is, “drive less, live more” (an american initiative, they are the world champions of the automobile after all!). The aim is good but less driving doesn’t necessarily mean a city is walkable.

These beautiful visualisations are titled, “where people run”. 

The GPS data shows which roads are most popularly transversed. However, what it doesn’t show is a full route, the type of route used by someone who likes to run or walk. It shows segment intensity and that’s the thing to bear in mind when it comes to city metrics - they’re optimisations of segments, defined parameters. Neither walkscore or a‘heat map’ alone will reveal the full colour of a good walk.

So what’s a good walk? What makes you walk once the basic needs have been met, when the lower tier Maslow necessities have been hugged, what makes you continue to walk?

As a keen walker, runner and cyclist, I noticed the routes I take share the same basic principle - variation. On foot, the routes I take are actually quite similar to Gordon Cullen’s serial drawings

Townscape - Gorden Cullen

I enjoy the changes of scale, terrain, sound, people and I enjoy being led by the city. I think Jan Gehl’s term is ‘inviting to walk’ (and if it’s not his term then I gladly claim it!). I also think of it akin to geographic ‘sampling’ and I like to sample a bit of everything. Contrast that to the heat map of chiago

If I lived here, you could assume I run up and down the coastal route then return home. But allluring as water is, my routes usually have 'bits' of water, not whole segments. Walking up the coast, turning around, and then walking down the coast seems like a prison march. Heck, why not lay down a giant tread mill.

Walking, running and cycling have been heaped together in this blog post and that's probably a dangerous thing. However, I think the biggest difference in those 3 activities can be down to a little formula I've constructed which goes like this;

The faster your mode of transport, the better your ability to endure straight stretches of road/path.

(There are other differences too but 1. that's not the point of this post. 2. I'm not a complete imbecile!!)

If the city is to aid its peoples in weight loss, looking at how the city contributes to 'continued' activity is preferable to the city as pure proxemics or street popularity. 

So, what keeps you walking?

For those still hungry to find out more, check out this wonderful article, "Open Spaces and Active Transportation"

You Might Also Like