Community and social connection

How does walking benefit community and improve social connections?

Aside from benefits to our physical health, walking does wonders for our social well-being and sense of connectedness to our local communities.

It’s quite difficult to get to know people when you only see them through the windscreen as you pass them at 40kph in a car. On the other hand, it really doesn’t take long to get to know people when you walk past them every day – it starts with a smile, then a nod, then a friendly hello and eventually an exchange of names and particulars.

Walking cultivates community. The more we walk, the more we know about where we live, the people we meet and share our neighbourhood with. This is why walkable communities are vibrant communities. Conversations and friendships develop when we are out and about walking on our own two feet.

More people walking leads to friendlier and livelier streets, reduces social isolation and creates safer neighbourhoods.

Benefits of socially connected communities

Walking is great for communities and the people who live in them because it:

  • Improves local safety and security – because having lots of people on the street discourages criminal or nuisance activity
  • Reduces traffic and the noise and pollution that go with it 
  • Increases road safety as well as reducing traffic - research shows that drivers slow down and take more care in streets that have lots of people walking and playing nearby 
  • Boosts local businesses - research shows that people who walk or catch public transport to the local shops go more often, stay longer and spend more money.  Shopping in your local area means you contribute to your local economy, creating jobs and livelihoods in your area 
  • Creates a positive cycle - as people see others walking, they feel safer about walking themselves, and over time, more and more people take to the streets on foot.

Benefits for families

Creating connections in your community is good for families too. Children and their parents enjoy many benefits when living in a socially connected neighbourhood. They grow up with a wider support network (eg. more opportunities for parents to swap babysitting, school pick up and drop offs).

As well as feeling part of the neighbourhood where they live, kids who are recognised and known by their neighbours have many, many extra pairs of eyes making sure that they’re safe as they navigate their local streets. Plus, knowing the other children on the street means they have many more friends to share toys and play with!

Read more about walking and children.

How to increase social connectedness in your neighbourhood

Here are a few easy ideas:

  • When walking, smile and say hello to people you pass 
  • Get to know your local shopkeepers and business owners 
  • Spotted someone new moving into your street? Go ahead and introduce yourself to make them feel welcome. Take them on a neighbourhood orientation on foot!  
  • Got a fruit tree?  Take a walk down your street and share your bounty with your neighbours.  
  • Admiring a beautiful garden while on your walk?  Why not compliment the house owner to let them know how much you enjoy their garden?  
  • The more the merrier - rope in a few neighbours or friends for regular walks.  More people walking encourages even more people to walk! 

Spotted an issue, or want to take action to make your neighbourhood better for walking? You can make a difference! We've got tools and resources to support you.  Start a Walkability Action Group and start taking great leaps to make your neighbourhood better for walking,