Arguments about density are often front and center when walkability is being discussed. We know that density is an important factor in encouraging more walking (and discouraging driving), but walkability is a particularly complex, and seemingly ephemeral quality. Whether or not a person chooses to walk depends on so many factors beyond just the physical fabric of a place, from the socioeconomic to the psychological. As a result, there’s not always a one-to-one relationship between a neighborhood’s form and its walkability.
In a recent article looking at a study that found no link between perceived walkability and actual walking habits among women in Seattle, University of Washington professor Cindy Perry (who led the study) explained that “Just having a beautiful environment isn’t going to move people from the couch to walking…A walkable environment can help, but it’s not enough.”