Living on the edge

The joy of a house in the suburbs can be short-lived should public transport and cycling infrastructure be lacking. The financial and health costs of car dependence and long commute times can push a household to the edge. Urban sprawl can entrench disadvantage.

Red pill or blue pill

A study “Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth” (The Conversation, 18/10/2017) considered the effects of car dependence on people’s lives. The study concludes that providing good public transport, walking and cycling choices in new estates is essential.

“Rising housing prices have forced many low-income families to live on the fringes of Australian capital cities. Residents of these sprawling outer suburbs often have worse access to public transport, employment, shops and services. They need one or more motor vehicles simply to get to work and take children to school.

Buying and maintaining vehicles in Australia is expensive. These costs have a large impact on household budgets. Household finances then affect health…”

Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth, The Conversation, 18/10/2017

The Study

The study looked at four scenarios:

  1. Two car households
  2. One car and public transport
  3. Public transport only
  4. Walking, cycling and public transport.

Those with fewer cars, even after adding the cost of public transport, are financially better off.

“Moving from a two-car household to having no cars can improve weekly finances by as much as A$237, after adding 10 return trips to the CBD. The fourth scenario, emphasising walking and cycling, shows the greatest improvement in household finances. These families are $294 per week better off.”

Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth, The Conversation, 18/10/2017
Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth, The Conversation, 18/10/2017

Urban design can boost household health and wealth

“The evidence from research suggests several strategies to improve uptake of active and affordable transport, while reducing car dependence and related health inequities. These include local urban design features such as:

> connected and safe street networks (including pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure) that reduce exposure to traffic

> residential areas mixed with commercial, public service and recreational opportunities

> public transport that is convenient, affordable, frequent, safe and comfortable

> higher residential density with different types of housing (including affordable housing) to support the viability of local businesses and high-frequency public transport services

> cycling education and promotion

> car-free pedestrian zones, traffic calming measures, signage and accessibility for all (including wheelchair and pram access).”

Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth, The Conversation, 18/10/2017

Poor urban design can make the circumstances of those finding it tough even tougher.

“Large health inequalities exist in Australia. Car ownership and its costs add to the health inequalities between low-income and high-income households.”

Designing suburbs to cut car use closes gaps in health and wealth, The Conversation, 18/10/2017
Urban sprawl. Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

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