In my Master’s research, I examined the impact of urban greenspaces on decisions to move into the suburbs. It had a significant effect being one of the top three reasons why individuals chose to live on the outskirts of Edmonton. I, on the other hand, prefer to live closer to the centre of Edmonton, but that’s because I can access the North Saskatchewan river valley which is the longest urban green belt in North America. When I walk or bike from these more central locations I will generally choose to go through the river valley because I don’t have to deal with traffic in the same way, drivers seem to be more aware that cyclists may be around, and, quite frankly, it is just more enjoyable to bike through trees and parks than buildings. So, I make this choice even though it means I have to climb some fairly significant hills.
Christiansen et al. (2016) found that different cities saw different effects of the presence of parks on cycling, with some cities – Ghent, Belgium; Aarhus, Denmark; and Seattle, US – having a positive relationship (more parks is correlated with more cycling). They hypothesize that this relates to green areas being used as transport corridors for cycling, exactly as I use Edmonton’s river valley, versus parks that actually end up being in the way of your destination, such as a school yard that I am more likely to bike around than travel through.
Therefore, it isn’t just a question of having parks or green spaces in your area, or on your route, it is whether it supports you or hinders you in getting to your destination. As green spaces play an ever-increasing role in the urban environment it is important to consider how they might also be set up in such a way to encourage low impact transportation.
Christiansen, L. B., Cerin, E., Badland, H., Kerr, J., Davey, R., Troelsen, J., … Sallis, J. F. (2016). International comparisons of the associations between objective measures of the built environment and transport-related walking and cycling: IPEN adult study. Journal of Transport and Health, 3(4), 467–478. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jth.2016.02.010