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PI 3: Walkable places

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This indicator examines walking and cycling as modes of travel to understand their contribution to the liveability of a city.


The goal is more convenient walking and cycling access to schools, employment, shops and services, public transport and open space.


  • Proportion of trips by walking (updated)
  • Proportion of residents within 10-minute walking access to centres (new)
  • Participation in walking and cycling for exercise (new)

Walking and cycling enhance people's health and fitness, reduce congestion and transport-related pollution, create opportunities for social connections and contribute to more people-friendly and attractive streets.

The Premier's Priority for greener public spaces recognises the need for quality public spaces within walking distance of where people live and how important this is to healthier lifestyles and to bring people together.

Participation in walking and cycling across Greater Sydney increased since March 2020. The Public Spaces during COVID-19 survey, undertaken by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment between April and August 2020, showed that 56 per cent of respondents reported cycling more than before, and 62 per cent reported walking more than previously31.

In 2019, we noted the two factors that influence how walkable a place is: the walkability of the built environment and the amount of walking activity. Fine grain urban form and a mix of different land uses at the heart of neighbourhoods enhance walkability and the vitality of cities and centres. The speed and volume of vehicular traffic also shapes the walkability of a place. This is illustrated in Figure 16.

Recent data from pedestrian counts conducted by Liverpool and City of Sydney councils shows that walking in centres is significant and is an essential part of the viability of centres, and their retail and service offerings.


Walking trips

The annual Household Travel Survey measures the percentage of trips by walking as a proportion of total trips in Greater Sydney. Where last year we reported only walking trips, this year we have looked at the change in walking, including to another mode of travel (see Figure 17).

Only Eastern City and Central City districts show any increase, suggesting more needs to be done to improve the conditions for easier, more convenient and safer walking.

These statistics are reflected in the proportion of Greater Sydney's residents who can access a centre within a 10-minute walk. In 2020, this was 34 per cent. The Eastern City District has a significantly higher proportion, at 63 per cent. The North and South districts have 35 per cent and 31 per cent respectively. In the Central City District, only 20 per cent of residents can access centres within 10 minutes' walk, and in Western City District, it is just 18 per cent32.


Figure 16: Walking in the built environment33


Figure 17: Walking (including to another mode of travel) as a proportion of total trips (2016/17-2018/19)34


Access to local centres, mapped in Figure 18, shows the greater distances and lower concentration of centres across those districts.

Of note, there are some areas of higher walkability that correlate with older, established centres in the Western City District. However, newer areas developed since the 1970s have an urban structure that is more car dependent, meaning fewer opportunities to walk to local centres. This is compounded by streets that do not prioritise pedestrians relative to vehicles, have fewer or no footpaths and less street tree canopy as outlined in performance indicator four.

The development of new communities in the Western City and Central City districts need to prioritise an urban structure that supports walking and cycling.

The importance of local centres will increase if flexible working conditions see people continuing to work from home and as risk factors due to the pandemic encourage people to stay within their local communities.


Figure 18: 5 and 10-minute access to centres > 1,000 square metres of retail floor space35

Download this image pulse_figure_18.png (format PNG / 621 KB )


Access to open space and recreation

Last year, the Pulse reported that across Greater Sydney, five per cent of people walked to work and one per cent cycled in 2016. Department of Planning, Industry and Environment's 2019 Greater Sydney Outdoors Study confirmed that people value outdoor recreation areas close to where they live and to their workplace36.

The study showed that more than 80 per cent of respondents walked, jogged, hiked or ran for recreation or exercise and that over one quarter cycled on roads.

Movement and Place

To encourage more walking, we need to think about the dual use of streets for movement and as places. This is particularly relevant within two kilometres of places like centres, regional sporting facilities and parks.

The Streets as Shared Spaces program, led by DPIE, will provide $15 million in grant funding across NSW for council and community-led initiatives to improve street environments through temporary activations that demonstrate the case for permanent changes, such as footpath improvements or widening, new cycle lanes or public domain upgrades.

One simple and cost-effective way of improving local conditions to make walking and cycling easier, safer and more convenient is through reduced speed limits37. Figure 19 shows the effects of different speeds.

In mid-2020, Manly and Liverpool centres introduced speed limits of 30km/hour. Other areas where speed limits have recently been reduced to 40km/hour include parts of Annandale, Pyrmont, Camperdown and Randwick.


Figure 19: Crash impact speed survivability*38

*Based on young adult pedestrians


Findings and future focus

Levels of walking and cycling have increased across Greater Sydney since the pandemic started, however opportunities for walking and cycling vary greatly across the metropolis. Access to local centres and recreation decreases from east to west, where there is a greater reliance on cars.

The increasing use of local centres and the benefits of walking and cycling requires us to prioritise improvements in and around centres. Many of Greater Sydney's centres are also well-served by public transport and improved walking links will support higher public transport use by making access to stations and interchanges quicker and easier.

If the safety, quality and attractiveness of streets is improved, particularly those that link to transport, open space and public facilities, walking and cycling participation increases.