Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review

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1 Report by the Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, University of South Australia to SA Active Living Coalition Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review Associate Professor Jon Kellett and Dr Matthew W. Rofe School of Natural and Built Environments University of South Australia August

2 This report was prepared by Associate Professor Jon Kellett and Dr Matthew W. Rofe from the Institute for Sustainable Systems and Technologies, University of South Australia for the South Australian Active Living Coalition, a collaborative forum for the planning and coordination of active living in South Australia. The Members include representatives from the following organisations: Heart Foundation (Lead Agency) Cancer Council of South Australia Department of Health Department of Planning and Local Government Department of Transport and Infrastructure (Office of Walking and Cycling) Land Management Corporation Local Government Recreation Forum Office of Recreation and Sport Planning Institute of Australia (SA Division) Material documented in this publication may be reproduced providing due acknowledgement is made. Enquiries about this publication should be addressed to the Secretariat of the SA Active Living Coalition: Heart Foundation 155 Hutt Street ADELAIDE SA 5000 Phone: (08)

3 Table of contents: Executive Summary 4 1 Creating Active Communities: Introduction Aims of the Research 6 2 Definition of Terms Open Space Development Density 10 3 The Academic Literature on Open Space Provision Types of Open Space Provision Green space Non-green space Public Open Space: Issues of Access Uses of Public Open Space: Moderate Activity Vigorous Activity Passive Activity Location of Open Space Design and Open Space 30 4 The Policy Perspective Open Space Hierarchies Alternative Approaches Current Examples of Space Planning Open Space in Higher Density Urban Development Transit Oriented Development 49 5 Conclusions 52 6 Recommendations 55 7 Recommendations for Further Work 57 3

4 8. Reference List 58 9 Acknowledgements 68 List of Tables, Boxes and Figures: Table 1.1 Indicative measures of residential density 12 Figure 3.1 Reported barriers to walking for people 50 years and above 20 Figure 3.2 Proximity and Directness in neighbourhood design 28 Table 3.1 Park Types and Descriptions 32 Box 4.1 UK National Playing Fields Association Open Space Assessment 39 Table 4.1 Open space planning standards in Canberra 41 Table 4.2 Example of an open space hierarchy 43 Table 4.3 Space provision using standards for 6,600 persons at high and low densities 50 4

5 Executive Summary Open space is an important component of urban areas and may be a key factor in promoting active living. This report seeks to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence. It begins by defining open space as space within the urban environment which is readily available to the community regardless of its size, design or physical features and which is intended for, primarily, amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive. The report addresses the academic literature under four main headings namely, types of open space, uses of space, location of spaces and design of space. It is clear that open space covers a broad range of sizes and types of area from small pocket parks, children s play areas and urban squares to sports fields and extensive green areas. The evidence indicates that these fulfil a range of functions in respect of physical activity, from active sports to passive sitting, picnicking and as a venue for socialising for a range of age groups. Open space also needs to be viewed as fulfilling multiple urban functions such as amenity, biodiversity enhancement, flood mitigation and carbon sequestration. Open space may be located in dense urban centres, suburbs and urban fringe locations and may serve diverse populations in terms of density, demographics and cultures in multi ethnic cities. The evidence suggests that the full range of spaces is significant in promoting physical activity, but the literature tends to focus more on active pursuits than on the passive. The evolution of open space policy is charted and common aspects such as open space hierarchies and open space standards are identified. It is clear that there is a long legacy of standards and approaches to the provision and design of open space, which is increasingly open to question and are beginning to change. The research addresses the issue of open space provision in different densities of urban development. It identifies a paucity of evidence in respect of the appropriate provision or design of open space in higher density and transit oriented developments. The conclusions emphasise the importance of well designed open space which is part of an interconnected network to promote pedestrian and bicycle trips between open space destinations. Design guidance recommendations 5

6 include distance thresholds for the location of open space in residential areas, the importance of safety in location and design and the value of needs based assessments which should include public input. 6

7 Creating Active Communities: How Can Open and Public Spaces in Urban and Suburban Environments Support Active Living? A Literature Review. 1. Introduction: Increasing concern about chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, obesity and depression, in 21st century urban populations has prompted a debate about the underlying causes of these diseases. A range of arguments are put forward including environmental factors such as air pollution from industrial sources and vehicle exhausts, increasing levels of work related stress and changing personal behaviour patterns, which include the sedentary nature of many modern jobs and an increased reliance on private cars for a range of transport needs. Related to these latter aspects it is further argued that the way we plan and lay out our modern cities is a factor in reducing physical activity, which has a direct bearing on decreasing levels of public health (Jackson, 2003). In particular the prevalence of low density residential suburbs, separated from places of work, shops, community and recreational facilities is seen as a stimulus to increasing rates of private car use, which in turn reduce opportunities for walking and cycling, forms of exercise, which to previous generations were an integral part of daily life. Allied to an increased concern about safety in the urban environment and an increasing trend towards more sedentary recreational pursuits, notably computer gaming, it is further argued that increasing levels of childhood obesity are a result of declining opportunities for outdoor play and activity, which in part stem from the design decisions of urban planners and housing developers. If the nature of urban environments is a factor in the increased prevalence of these chronic diseases in modern society then a detailed analysis of the relationship between different types of land use, the density of development, the relative location of different land uses and crucially, the impact of different land use patterns on private car usage is required. A number of studies have concentrated 7

8 on this latter aspect in particular (Crane and Crepeau, 1998; Crane, 2000; Handy, 1996; Parsons et al, 1996). The evidence is not conclusive. There is no clear consensus that car trips are reduced and active forms of travel (walking and cycling) increase as a function of higher density development. Whilst there is sufficient evidence to argue that higher density forms of development reduce vehicle passenger kilometres travelled and reduce petrol consumption (Kenworthy et al, 1999), the scale of such savings is a matter for debate with a number of commentators suggesting that very large density increases are required to make appreciable savings in fuel consumption (Gordon, 1997, Troy, 1992, 1996, Boarnet and Sarmiento, 1998). A growing number of studies have sought to identify key relationships between the urban fabric and public health (Hahn and Craythorn, 1994, Frank, 2000, Baum and Palmer, 2002, Frank et al, 2004, Giles- Corti et al, 2007). The main findings and recommendations are diverse and relate to issues of land use and air quality, land use decision making impacts on water quality (Jackson and Kochtitzky, 2001), design for pedestrian safety from vehicles (Crum and Foote, 1996), and urban form and activity patterns (Frank, 2000). Saelens et al (2003) argue that land use mix which fosters close proximity of shopping, work and housing appears related to a greater uptake of walking and cycling amongst residents whilst Bull (2001) points to the research difficulties of obtaining data and reaching firm conclusions in this area of research. A Canadian review of evidence (Raine et al, 2008) suggests that walkability is positively influenced by increased residential density and mixed land use whilst it is negatively associated with low residential density, uniform land use urban sprawl. Recent Australian research has emphasised the increasing importance of fostering active lifestyles as a means of curbing the increase of the diseases referred to above (Kavanagh et al, 2005, Giles - Corti, 2006, Hume et al, 2007). How this can be achieved and what are the precise relationships between urban form and active living is the subject of ongoing research of which this paper forms a part. 1.2 Aims of the Research: Much of the recent research into the relationship between urban form and active living focuses on the value of mixing land uses, of locating facilities such as shops, schools and community facilities within easy walking distance of homes and 8

9 providing safe and attractive opportunities for walking and cycling. The provision of open space as a focus for physical activity receives less attention. So the purpose of the current paper is to explore and review the literature which looks at the provision of open space within the urban fabric. In particular it seeks to identify the evidence base in respect of evaluating the importance of open and public space in supporting active living through a review of the academic and policy evidence. The review also focuses on the issue of how increased urban densities may affect planning for open space in the urban environment. The currently high level of interest in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) begs the question of the appropriate level of open space provision. This is a key concern of policy makers in Australian cities at present and particularly in Adelaide, which has recently announced a strategy of concentrating on TOD developments within the metropolitan area in its 30 Year Planning Strategy (Government of South Australia, 2008). Opportunities for active recreation, playing sport, walking and cycling are all potential benefits of the provision within urban areas of open space areas. But how much space is appropriate? What size and designs are most effective in attracting and promoting active living? What accessibility standards are required to maximise the utility of open space in urban areas? And does the open space requirement change as densities increase? This review seeks to address these questions through an examination of the evidence base. 2. Definition of Terms 2.1. Open Space: It could be argued that any area within the urban envelope not occupied by buildings constitutes open space. The Plan for London, for example, defines open space as: All land use in London that is predominantly undeveloped other than by buildings or structures that are ancillary to the open space use. 9

10 The definition covers the broad range of open space types within London, whether in public or private ownership and whether public access is unrestricted, limited or restricted (Mayor of London, 2004). To employ such a broad definition here may be problematic for a number of reasons. First our concern is open space that can be used for physical activity of some kind. Large areas of unbuilt land in cities are given over to vehicle usage as roads or parking and cannot be considered as available for physical activity apart from by cyclists. This in turn begs questions as to whether road verges, pavements, footpaths, and cycle ways are to be considered as open space since most of these afford some potential for physical activity. The type of space is therefore an issue. Scottish planning policy defines open space as including: green space consisting of any vegetated land or structure, water or geological feature within and on the edges of settlements including allotments trees woodland, paths and civic space consisting of squares, marketplaces and other paved or hard landscaped areas with a civic function (Scottish Government 2007). This definition raises issues of whether open space needs to be contained within the urban areas as opposed to being on its edge and the nature of its surface treatment, namely, hard or soft. Other commentators present a variety of more restricted or distinct definitions (UK Department of Communities and Local Government, 2002, Girling and Helphand, 1994, Woolley, 2003). One concept which reoccurs is the concept of open space as a "third place" (Oldenburg, 2000, Baum and Palmer, 2002, Frumkin, 2003) that is neither home nor workplace, but part of a public realm where social encounter is enhanced. Of course third places need not be open space. Theatres, bars, restaurants, and sports facilities also constitute such third places, some but not all of which, have physical activity connotations. The concept of third places in turn raises questions about the distinction between space, which is readily and legally accessible to the public and private space, most usually in residential settings, in the form of private gardens. The latter are often valued aspects of the residential environment and a location for physical activity for both adults, through active gardening, and children, as a 10

11 venue for play (Cook, 1968, Kellett, 1982, Hall, 1987, Halkett, 1975). There also exists a range of semi public spaces such as school sports fields and playgrounds and amenity space dedicated to specific developments e.g. gardens or parks shared between several dwellings. If we consider the literature which examines physical activity in the urban environment we see a range of considerations including parks (predominantly American), recreation space (predominantly UK based), and studies which focus on physical activity wherever it may take place in the urban context, including footpaths, trails, stairwells and sports fields. So arriving at a definition for open space and public open space is not straightforward. One approach is to distinguish between Open space: Green i.e. predominantly soft surfaced space within the urban environment. This may be legally accessible to all, have partially restricted access or be private e.g. private gardens attached to dwellings, And Public space: Hard surfaced spaces within the urban environment but excluding the vehicle carriageways of roads and open air surface car parking areas. Using this approach we primarily distinguish between types of space (i.e. soft or hard surface) and we ignore any hard surfaced space which is not publicly accessible to all. On balance it seems more sensible to consider private space, whether soft or hard separately, and employ one definition of Public Open Space as: Space within the urban environment which is readily accessible to the community regardless of its size, design or physical features and which is intended for, primarily, amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive. Thus, we exclude cycle-ways, footpaths and pavements which are part of the urban fabric and attached to roads, even though these may have value for 11

12 physical activity, but we include nature trails and linear features such as cycle ways, provided they are physically separated from vehicle carriageways. Finally, water space is noted in the UK Planning Policy Guidance (Dept of Communities and Local Government, 2002) and Thompson (2008) as an area that may fall within an open space definition. This may include linear waterways such as canals and creeks as well as reservoirs, lakes and smaller areas of water. We include water space in our definition Development Density: In this review we are also concerned with the density of urban development, specifically in respect of evidence supporting levels of open space provision within higher density residential areas. Density itself is a simple concept which seeks to measure the intensity of occupation of the land. Thus we can assess density in terms of dwellings, floor space, habitable rooms, bed spaces or persons per hectare. We might also seek to describe an area in terms of its intensity of occupation by certain groups, for example children or aged persons per hectare. None of this is complex, though the actual metrics rely on accurate measurement and data collection. But what, at first glance, seems a simple concept can become problematic when we seek to describe densities as low or high. In this sense density is culturally specific, so what may be seen as high density in an Australian city would likely be considered as relatively low in an Asian city. Also the actual measure of density is not always immediately discernible from the characteristics of an area. Thus, different dwelling forms, single as opposed to two or three storey, row, detached and semi detached and different spacing conventions particularly in respect of set back of buildings from the street can produce an impression of lower or higher density which is not borne out by the actual calculation of density for the area. These issues have been well illustrated by Planning SA (2006). A key concern is that it is as much the form and distribution of space around buildings as the dwelling form, which produces the density outcome. So a high rise (say 10 storeys) block of apartments may appear to represent high density living, but if it is widely separated from neighbouring blocks then it may represent a density of development no higher than the same number of dwellings in the form of row houses, occupying the same site area. Different 12

13 forms of dwellings can produce an illusion of density and it can be misleading to specify building form as a key density indicator. It should also be noted that a range of types of density measures exist. So we may be concerned with net residential density, which is the intensity of land use area of land taking only dwellings and their immediate surroundings into account. Immediate surroundings are normally taken to include associated garden space and sometimes local vehicle and pedestrian access and circulation space. Or we may be interested in defining gross density, which takes other associated uses such as schools, community facilities such as local shops and recreation parks as well the housing itself. Thus for the same general area, gross density measures are always quantitatively less than net measures. Australian cities display characteristics which rank them as low density on a comparative world scale of gross density. Australians have also tended to regard residential layouts, which are by international standards low density, as the norm. A net density of dwellings per hectare (dph) is fairly typical of suburban residential layouts developed in the twentieth century in many Australian cities. In the last twenty years net densities in new developments have tended to increase. The Mawson Lakes development in Adelaide for example, displays net densities of between 15 and 20 dph. Despite representing an increase over previous suburban densities, the areas of Mawson Lakes being described remain for the most part, single family detached houses. Inter block spacing is a key factor in changing density measures. In all developments planning standards, which seek to ensure vehicle access, privacy and sunlight access to dwellings, determine the minimum distances between building, fronts, rears and sides. Thus, once these minima are reached, it is possible to describe the change in dwelling form which is required to achieve different density thresholds. Table 1 below provides some indicative measures. 13

14 Net density Assessment Predominant Dwelling form Less than 17 Very low Detached Low Detached Medium Semi detached 67+ High Row houses + apartments Table 1.1: Indicative measures of residential density 1 Source: Planning SA (2006) Understanding Residential Densities and Kellett J (1983) Public Policy & the Private Garden, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Council for National Academic Awards, UK From Table 1.1 it is clear that in the Australian context, where the majority of the existing housing stock consists of detached single story dwellings, the limit of low density is reached at around 30 dph. Medium density can be viewed as representing a measure of net density between the low 30s to around 65 dph. This latter represents a development of row houses with minimum inter block spacing 1 and allotment sizes averaging 150 square meters. Achieving densities above this level requires a contribution of low rise (normally defined as 5 storeys or less) flats. Thus, given the predilection of the Australian population for houses as opposed to apartments, high density in the Australian context could be argued to range from 65 dph upwards. The threshold at which low rise (5 storeys or less) needs to give way to high rise (above 5 storeys) is around 220 dph. All of these estimates depend on the average floor area of dwellings and the generosity of inter block spacing as well as localised site specific factors such as shape and slope. They should therefore be viewed as an indicative guide, not as hard and fast rules. Throughout this document the following terms are defined as follows: High Density: Greater than 65 dwellings per hectare Medium Density: dph 1 NB These density calculations use a definition of net density which does not include any public circulation space. As such they tend to inflate achievable density measures by around 25%. 14

15 Low Density: 1-29 dph Active Living: A way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines 3. The Academic Literature on Open Space Provision: An exhaustive review of the literature relating to the provision of public open space and activity was undertaken. These materials represented the diversity of interest in the topic at hand spanning academic studies, policy documents, advocacy reports and general community information packages. This section reviews the academic literature pertaining to the provision of public open space. We classify academic literature as research papers published in refereed journals of international standing by professional academics 2. Distinguishing this material form policy and/or advocacy literature is important for two reasons; first academic studies are characterised by an objective, inquiry-driven research paradigm and second publication by a blind expert referee process provides a significant degree of confidence in the veracity of reported research findings and their interpretation. Given the complex nature of public open space provision and public health the core literature sample demonstrated a significant breadth of academic disciplines and their relevant journals. Urban planning, design and geography journals were represented within the core sample. These included internationally prominent journals such as Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Planning Literature and Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment. However, the majority of the academic literature on the topic was published in the fields of public health and other health sciences. Prominent journals addressing public open space provision and public health included the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Journal of Public Health Policy, the American Journal of Health Promotion, Public Health Reports and Health and Place. In their 2007 review paper, Kaczynski and Henderson s (2007, p.317) asserted that public health researchers are at the forefront of research into the public health benefits can be 2 This section includes 2 sources not published in refereed journals; these being Frank and Co (2008) and Thompson, S. (2008). These have been included in this discussion due to their high quality, the standing of the authors and/or the existence of a verifiable review process. Frank and Co s (2008) principle author is Dr Lawrence D. Frank who holds the Professorial Chair in Sustainable Transportation at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Thompson, S. (2008) is published online at Your Development. Your Development is an Australian online resource organisation promoting sustainable development. It is a national project in partnership with CSIRO and the Australian department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. All papers are reviewed by leading academic experts and/or industry authorities. 15

16 derived from the provision of public open space. The literature review presented here validates this observation and, while there appears to be significant research intersections between the urban planning and public health literatures, suggests that further attention should be devoted to these issues by planning academics generally and the publication of and debate over these issues within planning scholarship has been identified as a key year in the development of this research field (see Kaczynski and Henderson 2007), with a number of international conferences being held, special editions of journals published (see Blair and Morrow 1998) and the emergence of what has come to be known in the United States as the active living movement (see Killingsworth et al. 2003). In total, over 500 individual items of academic literature were identified. This total data set was rationalised to a core sample of approximately 100 academic papers. To ensure the most recent data was examined, the core sample was restricted to papers published between 1998 and The core sample was then classified as those papers reporting the findings of original research and those reviewing the existing literature. In the interest of presenting a succinct overview of the core literature this report does not discuss all academic papers reviewed. Rather, it focuses upon those papers considered to represent exemplary case studies of the role of public open space in the promotion of physical activity. In total 47 papers are discussed here in detail. This review is divided into 4 inter-related sections. The first addresses types of open space provision addressed and/or discussed within the literature, the second findings on how open spaces are used, the third on the location of open spaces and the fourth on the design of open space and its reported impacts on physical activity. A review of the international literature is provided first and then a discussion of the Australian literature, where available, is undertaken. Thus, the Australian situation is contextualised within the wider, internationally-oriented, literature. A summary of key points is provided at the conclusion of each section. Key points: This section investigates academic literature only; 16

17 Academic literature is classified as research and/or review papers published in refereed journals; 47 academic papers ( ) are reviewed in this section; The fields of public health and health sciences are well represented in the literature; Scope may exist to strengthen the planning literature in this field Types of Open Space Provision: As stated in Section 2, defining open space is a complex undertaking. To reiterate, we differentiate between open space and public space, here understood to be predominantly soft surfaced, green space and hard surfaced, but excluding carriage ways and open-air car parks, non-green space within the urban environment respectively. Considering issues of public accessibility, we also employ the term public open space, here understood to denote space within the urban environment which is readily accessible to the community regardless of its design or physical features and which is intended for amenity or physical recreation, whether active or passive Green space: a considerable literature exists upon the provision of green space and its impact upon and correlation with increased physical activity. Green space typically includes parks, both designed for formal and informal physical activities, playgrounds and nature reserves. Green space may also be informally created through communities using derelict urban spaces. Community gardens would constitute one such form of informal green space. Cohen et al (2009) provide a valuable typology of green open space (see Section 3.4, Table 3.1). They categorise green open space according to type, purpose, location/proximity and provide guidelines for minimum size. Proximity to and accessibility of green space has been noted as having positive physical and emotional benefits for community members (see Frumkin 2001; Hill 2002; Jackson 2003). Further, green space is suggested to constitute an important aspect in the fostering of social capital and the maintenance of 17

18 community cohesion (see for example Kuo et al 1998). While not an explicit focus of this report, it is important to acknowledge the emotional and social benefits green space can offer Non-green space: Providing effective linkages between point of departure, home or work and open space destinations is a critical aspect of physical activity inducement. Jackson (2003, p.195) identifies the footpath as deserving more intense scrutiny as a critical aspect of neighbourhood design. Jackson proposes the design of conducive walkways to promote increased physical activity. Conducive walkways should be designed to offer protection from the main carriageway, provide views of attractive scenery and meander through mixed-use areas rather than along main carriage ways and be well lit to provide a sense of safety (Jackson 2003). Frumkin (2003) draws a similar conclusion. Citing Burden s (1999) Street Design Guidelines of Healthy Neighbourhoods, Frumkin (2003, p.1453) argues for the provision of sidewalks with sufficient width, buffers, continuity, and connectivity [And] safe cross-walks. Allied with narrower streets designed with improved traffic-calming provisions, such as speed-humps and roundabouts, more conducive walkways are said to be created. Other forms of hard public open space, such as tennis and basketball courts, piazzas and squares are also featured in the literature. Hard surfaced sports facilities are important sites for physical activity. This is especially the case for physical activities classified as vigorous (see Section 3.2.2). Piazzas and squares can be thought of as offering passive activity public open space (see Section 3.2.3). Hard, passive open spaces constitute important gathering places and can constitute important foci for the public interactions and the development and enhancement of community cohesion and social capital. While the activities undertaken in piazzas and squares does not, necessarily, promote vigorous physical activity they are a nonetheless important aspect of urban fabric and community wellbeing. Access to indoor, non-green space physical activity venues is also reported on in the literature. Both Brownson et al (2001) and Deiz Roux et al (2007) report that accessibility to indoor recreation facilities, such as gymnasiums and even 18

19 shopping malls, were perceived as providing both destinations and sites of physical activity for respondents. Brownson et al s (2001, p.197) study revealed that 20% of women and 26% of men sampled indicated that the availability of such facilities within close proximity to either home or place of work was a factor in their reported levels of physical activity. It must be noted that this research was based upon perceived availability of recreation facilities, rather than representing an objectively, statistically based study of actual physical activity involvement. Having said this, what the paper reveals is that the perception of access can be positively associated with physical activity (Brownson et al, 2001, p.199). Taking a more cautious approach, Diez Roux et al (2007, p.498) assert that [s]patial accessibility of physical activity resources appears to be a positive, albeit weak, predictor of activity levels. This finding was drawn from a large-scale, multiethnic sample of 2723 adults (45-84 years) from New York, Baltimore and Forsyth County in the United States. Such spaces represent a challenge for the creation of urban development policies that promote the provision of public open space. Neither gymnasiums nor shopping malls (after Brownson et al 2001 and Diez Roux et al 2007) are public open spaces. At best they can be considered as quasi-public spaces. In reality they are private spaces adopting some traits of public space, but retaining many rights of entry protections. Entry into these spaces is monitored and often premised upon the purchasing of membership, as in the case of gymnasiums, and/or appropriate standards of dress and behaviour. Thus, many individuals and/or groups find themselves excluded from such spaces. While this calls into question issues of access the consideration of quasi-public spaces is important for effective policy formation as such spaces are a common feature of many new development forms. In a similar vein, it is important to acknowledge the scope for shared spaces as sites of physical activity. Shared space may be thought of as private or regulated space to which wider public access is negotiated. Shared spaces may include school grounds, church facilities (such as halls etc) and private sporting club facilities. While negotiated access to these spaces and/or facilities may promote greater physical activity within the wider community, there are potentially significant hurdles to overcome. Foremost amongst these are matters of legal indemnity and insurance. Other concerns may revolve around appropriate times 19

20 of shared space usage and issues of safety, for example with regards to school grounds as shared spaces. While we acknowledge the potential for and limitations of shared spaces for wider physical activity uses, it must be noted that these issues are not addressed within the accessible literature Public Open Space: Issues of Access: Access is a critical issue in the provision of public open space. Typically, access is considered to be the ability of an individual to gain access to a facility or service. Foremost in such a definition is the ability to gain physically access. At face value this would appear to be reasonable. However, we are cognisant that accessibility is impinged upon and influenced by a number of additional factors. These may include issues of socioeconomic status, race, gender, age and disability and how these intersect with physical ability to and perceptions about gaining access to public open space. The role of socio-economic status and race in regards to public open space has been well documented in the North American literature (see for example Huston et al. 2003; Sallis et al. 2009). Studies indicate that the provision of public open space in low socio-economic neighbourhoods is extremely poor. Many such neighbourhoods are either bereft of public open space or that which is available is of poor quality. Those spaces that are provided are typically non-green spaces, thereby depriving such communities of more natural public open spaces with their reported health benefits. Further, the maintenance of existing spaces is typically poor rendering them unattractive and, potentially, undesirable places to use. In effect a lack of open space provision or the nature of those spaces provided, combined with poor maintenance further impoverish low socio-economic status communities. Exacerbating the above issues further, many low socio-economic neighbourhoods are located in marginal zoning areas within the city. Thus, such neighbourhoods are commonly situated close to or even bounded by industrial areas. Such environments are not conducive to walking due to zoning and design induced deterrents such as railway lines, major carriage ways and heavy traffic usage. Such environments do not embody what Jackson (2003) refers to as conducive walkways. 20

21 Much has been written about safety in public spaces and the fear of crime. Specifically, there is a considerable body of knowledge about how perceptions of risk in the public realm constrain the spatial mobility of women, the elderly and young children. The literature at hand reflects these concerns. Authors such as Godbey et al (2005), Powell (2005), Babey, et al (2007), De Vries et al (2007), Miles (2008) and Babey et al (2008) all stress the importance of safety in enhancing wider community access to and usage of public open space. Babey et al s (2008) study into adolescents use of public open space, for example, noted that access to a safe park was associated with regular [physical] activity, whereas concerns over safety were associated with inactivity. This is interesting, given that much of the anxiety potentially experienced by other open space users often relates to the presence of young people. The geography of women s fear is particularly well documented within the wider literature (see for example Valentine 1989, 1991). Within the field of planningrelated scholarship generally, the gender bias of planning towards masculine needs and endeavours is quite well developed. Doreen Massey s (1994) work is most instructive in uncovering the gendered heritage of planning and the role this has played in creating gendered landscapes. Massey s (1994) work demonstrates that simple policy assumptions and design decisions reinforce the common sense assumption that public space is male space. Questioning the gender base of planning reveals a system of gender relations (Massey 1994, p.189) that are premised on gender inequality. These insights are echoed by other feminist scholars such as Greed (1996) and Hayden (2000). However, issues of gender, perceptions of safety in public open space and how these may influence physical activity amongst women has not featured significantly in the literature. This is a striking omission, particularly given the assertion that [p]ublic spaces have the capacity to become participatory landscapes (Garcia-Ramon et al. 2004, p.216). In the interests of this project, we would contend that these concerns should be addressed by planning academics and professionals. Despite this silence, we would contend that concerns over safety are likely to erode physical activity in public open space for some members of the community. Strategies to address 21

22 this are broadly addressed in the urban design literature. A discussion of design approaches to crime reduction, either real or perceived, is undertaken in Section 5. Arguing for the need to design neighbourhoods that support aging in place, Frank and Co (2008) stress the importance of considering the specific needs of the elderly in the location of public open space. Physical activity, particularly walking, has been identified in numerous studies as having positive health benefits for elderly populations (see for example Taylor et al 2003). While a number of barriers facing the elderly in gaining access to public open space reflect a number of core barrier issues, a number are specific to this group. In their study on barriers to walking for persons over 50 years of age, Ritter et al (2002, cited in Frank and Co 2008, p.21) identified the following factors as impinging upon access to public open space for the elderly (see Figure 3.1): Figure 3.1: Reported barriers to walking for people 50 years and above Source: Ritter et al (2002) from Frank and Co (2008, p21). Further, Frank and Co (2008, p.20) observe that the elderly take longer to walk the same distance as younger members of the population. They cite elderly walking 22

23 rates as approximately 0.75m per second as opposed to 1.2m per second for ablebodied adults. Thus, in areas with a high elderly resident population it is advisable that the distance threshold to public open space been lowered. Ward Thompson (2002), drawing upon the UK Lord Rogers Urban Task Force report (DETR,1999), recognises the importance of greater accessibility for persons with various forms of disability. Specifically, Rogers (1999, p.47 in Ward Thompson 2002, p.60) argues the importance of creating inclusive places of avoiding disparity of opportunity and promoting equity. Golledge (1993, p.63) understands disability to refer to those situations where an individual is prevented wholly or partially from performing the full range of actions and activities usually performed by members of the society or culture in which the person lives. This may be experienced as a permanent or transitory state. However, the degree of impairment can have significant implications for the disabled. Golledge (1993, p.64) is extremely lucid about these implications: For the disabled obstacles and barriers not only are multiplied, but they are expanded well beyond the normal range; gutters become chasms, sidewalks and streets become treacherous paths, stairs may be impossible cliffs, distinctive sizes, shapes or colours may lose their significance, layout becomes a maze, maps and models may be uninterpretable. Thus, the disabled live in transformed space even though they occupy the same places as their able-bodied community counterparts (Golledge 1993, p.64). Inadequate consideration of the needs of disabled community members perpetuates at best, creates at worst what Imrie (2001, p.232) refers to as architectural apartheid. Addressing these issues is critical for addressing the specific needs of disabled persons and central to the creation of more inclusive neighbourhoods and cities. Baum and Palmer s (2002) Adelaide-based research is most instructive in how the design and maintenance of public space and its usage shape perception. Drawing 23

24 on in-depth interviews with 40 residents in an undisclosed suburb or suburbs 3, Baum and Palmer explored perceived hindrances to community participation in both physical activity and public open space usage. Their results indicated that homogeneous land use significantly constrained physical activity, most notably walking. A lack of walkable destinations, such as local shops, was commented on by numerous respondents. Further, issues of crime or the fear of crime featured prominently. In the words of one respondent: this beautiful park nobody goes there any more now. All the hoods congregate down there The parents won t let their kids go there in case they pick up a syringe such a beautiful park, a full block, and nobody [uses it] (in Baum and Palmer 2002, pp ). Strategies to overcome issues such as those stated above through design are discussed in Section 5. However, design alone cannot alleviate social problems. Key points: The provision of green public open space is reported to have positive physical and mental health benefits for individual community members and communities overall. Non-green open space is critical in providing both spaces for physical activity in their own right and connectivity with green open space. Access to public open space is complex and impinged upon by a number of factors, including yet not limited to age, gender and socioeconomic status Uses of Public Open Space: Uses of public open space are varied. Indeed, the term physical activity is not explicitly defined in the vast majority of studies addressed here. One exception to 3 While Baum and Palmer (2002) do not explicitly identify the suburb/s within which they conducted their research, nor provide a detailed study site justification or discussion, it is apparent that research was conducted in Port Adelaide and other, unspecified, suburbs in Adelaide s north-western suburbs. 24

25 this is Kraczynski and Henderson (2007, p.318) who adopt Caspersen et al s (1985, p.126) definition that physical activity involves any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure. Such a definition is, nonetheless, general in the extreme. More specifically, the Healthy People 2010 report (U.S. Department of Health and Human services, 2000 in Kaczynski and Henderson 2007, p.316) recommends a minimum of 30 minutes moderate-intensity physical activity per day. Moderate intensity is said to be achieved by walking briskly. Effective public open space should not be designed for a single physical activity. Rather, effective public open space should cater for a diverse range of activities and uses. Several studies have noted a multiplier effect inherent in public space usage and the uptake of physical activity. Notable amongst these is Cohen et al (2007) who observe that adults accompanying children to public open space playgrounds could be encouraged into greater physical activity by the provision of adult-oriented exercise equipment. They conclude that this could be an effective may to increase female participation rates in physical activity. An Australian case study by Baum and Palmer (2002) also noted the role of children in attracting supervising adults into public open space and, potentially, enhancing their physical activity. Further, Baum and Palmer also acknowledge the role of dogs as a stimulus for human physical activity. While the health benefits of increased physical activity facilitated by involvement in play with children and dogs are evident, there are also increased socialisation opportunities available to adults as children and dogs are social enablers thereby having potentially positive benefits for community development and social inclusion. Physical activity in public open space has been the subject of several large-scale surveys (for example Hutson et al. 2003; King et al. 2003; Cohen et al. 2007; Floyd et al 2008). Broadly, these studies classify observed activates as being either passive (often referred to as sedentary behaviour), moderate (such as walking) or vigorous (such as running or the playing of team sports). For example, Cohen et al (2007) found that 66% of persons observed in their study were 25

26 engaged in sedentary activities, 19% were walking and the remaining 16% were undertaking vigorous activity Moderate Activity: Walking features prominently within the literature as a key form of physical activity. Lee and Moudon (2004, p.154) assert that [w]alking is a preferred form of physical activity across different gender, age, and income groups. Walking is considered to be an informal form of physical activity, not reliant upon organisation such as team sports and not dependant upon specialised equipment. Thus, walking is an extremely equitable from of physical activity. King et al s (2003) study into the walking habits of older women found that high-walking rates were primarily associated with journeys to local shops (25.5%) and parks (20%). While several studies have noted the role of amenities and aesthetics in enhancing rates of physical activity (see for example Corti et al. 1997; Booth et al. 2000), Lee and Moudon (2004, p.163) assert that many persons are not deterred from walking despite sometimes poor environments. Having said this, Lee and Moudon agree that the propensity for more people to walk and/or for people to walk longer can be promoted by improvements in the destinations themselves and the built landscape connecting destinations. This reflects, in part, Jackson s (2003) assertion that the creation of conducive walkways can enhance physical activity Vigorous Activity: Vigorous activity is reported as constituting the least amount of directly observed physical activity reported within the literature. As stated previously, Cohen et al (2007) reported that only 16% of observed public space users were engaged in vigorous activities. These findings are consistent with other studies. Floyd et al s (2008) study of 9456 persons across 28 parks in Tampa and Chicago reported only 11% were involved in vigorous activities. Hutson et al (2003) reported similar findings in their North Carolina study. Of those engaged in vigorous activity their park usage was focused upon specific physical activities and related park facilities. Cohen et al (2007, p.511) reported that 34% of observed vigorous physical activity occurred on multipurpose sports fields, while 26% was focused on playground facilities. Floyd et al (2008) reported 26

27 a similar spatial emphasis. Further consistencies between the two studies were noted on the types of sporting activities undertaken. Both studies recorded significant rates of involvement in basketball, tennis and volleyball. While the literature is unanimous in setting a low spatial threshold as a key determinant in promoting physical activity in public open space, it must be noted that proximity does not solely determine usage. Indeed, as Hutson et al (2003) reflect persons already prone to undertake physical activity display a heightened awareness of public open space facilities. Barriers exist to the uptake of physical activity in public open space that effective policy making and urban design alone cannot overcome. It is important that public awareness of public open spaces be heightened and the benefits of physical activity be promoted. Thus, the management of open space facilities and the coordination of physical activities within them is a critical factor in improving community participation in physical activity (see Cohen et al 2007; Cohen et al 2009). Certainly, Cohen et al (2007) report higher public participation rates in physical activity when organised events were held. Flowing from this observation, strategies proposed in North American studies have included the scheduling of formal physical activities, the provisions of suitably qualified trainers and or activity supervisors and the appointment of fulltime public space managers. The uptake of such initiatives has not been reported on in the available literature. Further, the highly structured, formal nature of such proposals would appear to be beyond the scope of many local government bodies and certainly suggest a more regimented approach to physical activity that may be culturally unsuitable in the Australian context Passive Activity: The assumption that people use public open space for physical activity is highly problematic. Two prominent North American studies, these being Cohen et al (2007) and Floyd et al (2008) report high rates of no physical activity amongst park users (see also McKenzie et al 2006 cited in Floyd 2008). As noted in Cohen et al s (2007, p.513) North American study, parks provide an important destination for local residents who were often sedentary after arriving there. Their data reveals 66% of observed park-users as being 27

28 sedentary. Floyd et al (2008) support this finding. In their exhaustive observational study of 9456 persons across 28 parks in Tampa and Chicago, 65% were observed to be sedentary. They conclude that while parks have the potential to support physical activity, a substantial amount of use can be sedentary (Floyd et al. p.300). This is extremely important. The provision of public open space, its location and design may not be enough to promote strenuous physical activity. Considering the motivations for open space usage is important. As the central focus of this report is to evaluate the current literature on the physical activity opportunities afforded by public open space, the potential exists to equate sedentary usage of open space as a failure of those spaces. On the contrary, what is construed as sedentary from a physical activity/exertion perspective alone ignores the mental health benefits possible through more passive activities. Ward Thompson (1998) acknowledges that notions of parks as private refuges are deeply embedded in the Western psyche. Public open space in this sense provides a retreat from the pressures of modern life, being seen as more akin to the rural than the urban. Appreciating these dynamics can avoid the pitfall of perceiving failure of design intent. To date there have been few large scale Australian studies akin to the international studies discussed above. One of the most recent and prominent Australian studies was conducted by Giles-Corti et al (2005) in Perth and published in the prestigious American Journal of Preventative Medicine. This study combined a quantifiable environmental audit of public spaces in excess of 2 acres in conjunction with an observational survey of physical activity with these parks with qualitative interviews with 1803 adults in a multimethod approach. In doing so, the authors were able to explore the intersections between physical amenities, threshold distances and how these were perceived by and reacted to by community members. This study concluded that use of public open space was positively associated with accessibility (Giles-Corti 2005, p.172). Significantly, the authors found that park aesthetics and size were also factors influencing physical activity. Interview respondents with good access to parks that 28

29 were considered to be attractive and large were found to be twice as likely to engage in physical activity in public open space. Key points: Minimum physical activity is recommended to be 30 minutes of moderate exertion per day. This is said to be achieved by waking briskly. Activity in public open space is classified in three activity categories; moderate, vigorous and passive activity. Moderate activity is primarily reported as walking. Dog walking is identified as a key moderate activity. Vigorous activity is primarily reported as engagement in organised group sports. Passive activity is primarily reported as sitting in public open space. Passive activities should not be construed as having little or no positive health benefits. Activity categories have important implications for location, size and design of public open space Location of Open Space: The international literature is unanimous in the finding that to maximise public open space usage the distance from place of residence and/or work should be no more than 1.6-2kms (see for example Cohen et al 2007; Diez Roux et al 2007). This is considered to represent a walkable distance. However, it must be noted that this distance cannot be applied in a uniform manner. In an earlier study, Cohen et al (2006, p.1388) found that distances of less than 1km from place of residence to public open space correlated with higher physical activity rates. A distance decay effect is observed as operating for public open spaces that are further away from place of residence. Cohen et al s 2007 study found that 64% of park users travelled less than 0.8km to access public open space, while only 13% has travelled more than 1.6km. 29

30 The above findings can be considered as representing distance thresholds. Beyond a given distance threshold the literature advances that willingness to travel declines with a corresponding impact on physical activity rates. In light of this, the location of open space can be thought of as a proximity issue (after Frank et al 2004). The greater the proximity to public open space, the greater the likelihood of physical activity is said to be. This activity may be in the form of journeys to and/or exercise at open space. However, it is misleading to assume that proximity directly equates with physical activity. Proximity must be considered alongside directness issues. Directness can be thought of as the physical route of the journey taken from point of departure to destination. Thus, public open space facilities that are within the proposed distance threshold can be said to be proximate to a given place of residence. However, if there is a lack of route directness to these facilities then the purported benefits of their proximity are potentially negated. The key is to provide effective connectivity. Connectivity enhances proximity by emphasising directness. According to Frank et al, disconnected neighbourhood design is typical of many low-density suburbs within Western cities. This relationship is illustrated in Figure 3.2: Figure 3.2: Proximity and Directness in neighbourhood design Source: Frank et al (2004, p.89). Figure 3.2 represents how disconnected neighbourhood design limits proximity to public open space by stretching out the connection between point of departure and destination. Another important aspect of effective neighbourhood design to 30

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