Jun 21, 2022 - Health

Cities may need to be redesigned for extreme heat

Illustration of a fan blowing on the sun.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The hotter it gets, the less people want to move their bodies outdoors, according to recent research in the International Journal of Biometeorology.

Why it matters: While the finding may seem obvious, it's just one example of the implications extreme heat has on health and wellness — and why experts say cities will need to adapt.

Details: The authors of the study used electric counters to track hourly pedestrian and cyclist traffic on a popular trail in Austin, Texas, looking for the connection between the temperatures and trail use.

  • Pedestrians — at least those in Austin — were most likely to use the trail when the temperature was between 45°F and 81°F with peak use at 63°F. Cyclists were most likely to use the trail when temperatures were between 59°F and 91°F with peak use at 81°F.
  • In summer, pedestrians were more likely to use the trail until temperatures reached 81°F and cyclists were more likely to use the trail until temperatures reached 91°F.
  • Applying two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios and the expected impact on extreme temperatures, the study projected overall trail use would decrease by up to 17% by pedestrians and by up to 5% by cyclists by the mid to late-century.

What they're saying: As temperatures hit heat extremes more often, cities may need to consider interventions, such as creating "cool corridors" — adding green space, tree canopy or retractable shade structures — to encourage physical activity.

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