Performance Indicator: Walkable places

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Link: 30-minute city Performance Indicator
Walkable places Performance Indicator
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To understand the contribution that walking makes to the liveability of a city this indicator examines walking as a mode of transport generally.


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


  • Proportion of trips by walking
  • Travel mode to work
  • Access to open space

Two factors influence how walkable a place is: the walkability of the built environment and the amount of walking activity undertaken. Walkability describes the factors within the built environment that make it convenient, comfortable and safe to walk, while walking activity measures the actual amount of pedestrian movement undertaken in a location.

The key factors influencing walkability are the density and variety of land use mix and street connectivity such as the number of intersections or crossings per square kilometre. Other factors include the amenity of the street environment (shade, tree canopy, low-speed streets), wide footpaths and facilities (seats, water fountains).

A 20-minute walk built into a person’s daily routine reduces the risk of early death by 22 per cent1 and increases a person’s mental health by 33 per cent. To improve opportunities to walk and cycle, places need safe, convenient and direct access to mixed-use centres and public transport. .

Walking distances from dwellings to open space is an important part of liveability, particularly in areas of higher density. Open space networks such as the Greater Sydney Green Grid provide safe and convenient walking and cycling links to local centres, transport hubs and recreation.

Transport for NSW is investigating how walking activity can be better measured through big data and a network of pedestrian counters at set locations.


Trips by walking

Based on the Household Travel Survey, 18 per cent of trips in Greater Sydney in 2017-18 were on foot (see figure below). However this regional figure disguises the variations in the proportion of trips by walking by district. The Eastern City District is significantly above the regional figure at 32 per cent whereas the other districts are either close to or below the regional figure.


Walking trips as a percentage of all trips 2017-18

Walking trips as a percentage of all trips 2017-182

Download this image walking_trips.png (format PNG / 56 KB)

Travel to work

For the journey to work, most trips are by private vehicle and public transport. Walking and cycling represents only a small proportion with five per cent of people walking and one per cent of people cycling to work in Greater Sydney (see figure below). There are variations across the districts with seven per cent of journeys to work by walking in the Eastern City District and two per cent in the Central City District. The Eastern City District also has the highest proportion of cycling to work at two per cent.

The following figure also shows the variation in the proportion of trips to work by public transport across the districts, which is a factor in the 30-minute city indicator. Most of these trips start or end with a walk.


Greater Sydney and district travel mode to work 2016

Greater Sydney and district travel mode to work 20163

Download this image stylised_districts_mua_base_map4_artboard_2-02.png (format PNG / 736 KB)

Access to open space

There are several ways to measure access to open space. The approach in this indicator measures walking distance using the street network and pathways between dwellings and open space. In 2016, 65 per cent of people living in Greater Sydney’s urban area were within a 400 metre walk of local open space (see figure below). This demonstrates generally moderate to high levels of access to open space. The consideration of additional characteristics, such as topography, quality and intensity of use, will enhance our understanding.

Findings and future focus

Walking trips are highest in the Eastern City District and lowest in the Western City District. These districts also have the largest difference between access to open space. Walking as a proportion of all trips is low in South District. Walking and cycling to work is low across all districts.

Increasing walking and cycling in Greater Sydney relies on achieving a better balance of the dual function of streets as places for people and movement. Precinct or suburb level analysis will enhance our understanding of walkability and walking and cycling behaviour.

Locations for new jobs and housing, and the prioritisation of transport, health, schools and social infrastructure investment should consider walkability.

There are opportunities to leverage existing access to open space to improve walking and cycling networks in all districts. In developing new areas such as the South Creek corridor, there are great opportunities for walking and cycling to be a fundamental driver of liveability and health outcomes. 4


Percentage of residents with access to public open space within 400 metres 2016

Percentage of residents with access to public open space within 400 metres 20165

Download this image open_space.png (format PNG / 56 KB)


  1. A Metropolis of Three Cities – Objective 7 pp. 55 - Ekelund et. al. 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ajcn.114.100065.7
  2. Source: Transport for NSW, Household Travel Survey 2007/08 – 2017/18
  3. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2016
  4. A Metropolis of Three Cities – Objective 26 pp 152
  5. Source: Greater Sydney Commission analysis. Public Open Space Audit 2016, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

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