Does neighborhood urban form influence non-motorized transport in China? Toward walkable low-carbon cities

Authors: ChengHe Guan*, Harvard University, Sumeeta Srinivasan, Tufts University, Chris Nielsen, Harvard University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Transportation Geography, China
Keywords: Urban form; Low carbon travel; Non-motorized transport; China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Bayside A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Sustainable urban form that encourages low-carbon travel can help respond to the environmental challenges associated with urbanization. Non-motorized transport (NMT) effectively reduces the per capita carbon footprint of city dwellers. From the concept of compact cities to smart growth policies, many have attempted to address the question: Why do people living in certain neighborhoods walk more and drive less? Previous studies, mostly in North America and Europe, have established that urban form has a significant effect on travel behavior, but this relationship at the neighborhood scale is less conclusive. Recent studies have tried to measure neighborhood urban form in China by focusing on characteristics of the built physical environment. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of longitudinal data.
We conducted two interdisciplinary household surveys in the city of Chengdu, in 2005 and 2016, to assess changes in its economy, urbanization, travel behavior, land use, emissions, and popular perceptions over 11 years. By applying multivariate regression and factor analysis, our preliminary findings show that individual physical characteristics such as compactness measured by building footprint, population density, and diversity of land use may be insufficient to differentiate neighborhood travel behavior in Chinese cities. We argue that aggregate characteristics such as neighborhood types, infrastructure network connections, and job accessibility are critical concerns for promoting NMT in dense cities. We will also discuss China’s planning strategies toward low-carbon cities in general.

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