City Temperatures and City Economics, a Hidden Relationship Between Sun and Wind and Profits

Urban design undoubtedly influences the urban economy.

A simple thing like designing an area to make it more walkable can boost local business profits.

This can also increase real estate value, create more and better jobs and generate stronger local economies.

Street temperatures also determine their walkability. With climate change bringing longer and more frequent heatwaves, street temperatures will become even higher than at present. This will reduce walkability and, in turn, local business profitability.

Walkability impacts local businesses

The evidence shows businesses do better with foot traffic than car-based mobility. For example, closing New York’s Times Square to cars increased business revenue by 71% during an eight-month pilot project in 2009.

The following example helps explain why foot traffic benefits local business. In car-based cities, a take-away coffee on the way to work may involve a series of decisions:

  1. driving the car to a certain cafe
  2. finding car parking
  3. leaving and closing the car
  4. joining a queue to buy a coffee
  5. getting back in the car
  6. proceeding on the journey to work.

In contrast, when walking down the street we may not even have considered having a coffee, but we can smell it. So:

  1. we walk into the cafe
  2. join the queue to buy a coffee
  3. carry on walking to work.

The process is shorter, more spontaneous and part of a daily journey. Impulse buys as a result of exposure to stimuli have surprisingly big economic consequences, particularly for the retail industry.

What is microclimate?

Microclimate refers to the atmospheric conditions in an area. These can vary not only from the surrounding region but also within the area itself. Both the natural and built environments influence these differences. A well-known example of such differences is in Sydney’s western suburbs, which are much hotter in summer than the eastern suburbs, which benefit from being close to the sea and cooling breezes. But can an unpleasant microclimate suppress impulse buys? To a certain extent, yes. The frequency of impulse buys, and ultimately the overall success of most businesses in tropical cities, may be connected to the local microclimate. For instance, the orientation of streets in relation to sun and breeze exposure can influence the microclimate. This can then determine if people stay and have a second coffee or extra ice cream after lunch, or if they avoid streets because they are too exposed and hot. Australian cities, however, are too often overzoned and planned in a sprawling pattern. By compromising walkability this represses spontaneous purchases. CBDs are also too frequently oversized with unshaded wide streets. In hot climates this makes the journey on foot unpleasant and poses health risks to young children, senior citizens and people with health conditions. This article was originally published by The Conversation. Click here to continue reading entire article.

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Urban design found to affect physical activity in Chinese cities

Original article published by Cities Today on 2 March 2015 Author Jonathan Andrews

A new study by New York University and East China Normal University researchers has found that the design of the built environment influences how much walking and cycling people do in Chinese cities where obesity and chronic diseases are at highly elevated levels and still rising.

“While not surprising,” write the authors in their study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, “this finding is important, as it demonstrates that the association between the design of the built environment and walking, which has been found to be linked in research in Western countries, also holds true in China.”

The report, Walking, obesity, and urban design in Chinese neighborhoods, finds that part of the emerging evidence “will be of critical importance to persuade local government officials and developers of the value of pursuing more walkable urban development patterns.”

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Photo by Richard Schneider

Reflecting on China’s high rates of obesity and chronic diseases, the researchers set out to explore the impact of the built environment on physical activity in six densely populated neighbourhoods in Shanghai and Hangzhou. Each was inventoried for ease of walking and cycling, inclusive of such features as footpaths, street trees, benches, street widths, and curb cuts.

The communities were also audited for barriers to pedestrians and cyclists, such as vendors and parked cars obstructing the pavement, visible air pollution, bicycle lane hindrances, and overhead pedestrian bridges, which require greater exertion cross the street.

Four hundred and fifty-five Shanghai residents and 615 Hangzhou residents were surveyed for the study in central public spaces in order to assess rates of walking and cycling for travel and recreation, and for health outcomes, including Body Mass Index (BMI), demographic information, and environmental perceptions.

The higher the neighbourhood ranked overall in the ‘State of Place Index’ the greater were the levels of walking and cycling for commuting and recreation.

According to the study, income levels played a role in how much a respondent walked or cycled, but not in a predictable way as both higher and lower income respondents were more likely to have lower BMI, compared to middle income respondents, who were more likely to live in suburban neighbourhoods that have car-oriented transport and a lack of pedestrian amenities.

While the researchers did not examine the food environment, their study recommends that food intake be explored by other researchers in the future to shed further light on the link between income, obesity and walking in Chinese cities.