Sydney has some exemplary places for a walk. There's Bondi to Bronte. There's a stroll around The Rocks, along the Manly foreshore, or down Church Street, Parramatta. But across the city there are very few neighbourhoods that are genuinely conducive to walking about, according to a new study that attempts to match the amenity of an area's streetscape against ambient air pollution. According to the study, only four per cent of Sydney's neighbourhoods demonstrated both high walkability and low levels of traffic density and therefore air pollution. The most walkable spots identified in the study were Bondi and Cronulla, followed by Potts Point/Kings Cross, with Clovelly, Harbord and Parramatta also ranking highly. "We were particularly keen to see now only how walkable neighbourhoods are but also whether they are exposed to air pollution, and so whether the good effects of increased walking are offset by the adverse effects of being exposed to more air pollution," said Christine Cowie, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation, based at the Woolcock Institute. "It's really about the interplay between walkable neighbourhoods and neighbourhoods that are conducive to health," said Dr Cowie of the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health. Although the study demonstrates many beachside suburbs represent some of Sydney's best walking spots, the focus of the work is more on the type of walking people do every day – to the shops, to work, to the train stations. On a recent visit to Sydney, the US planning expert Jeff Speck said Sydney suburbs demonstrated the best and worst of urban design conducive to walking about. "The typical Australian city is as good as the best American city," said Speck, who has written a book on The General Theory of Walkability. "And your typical Australian suburb is as bad as the worst American suburb." The elements in Australian cities that worked, Speck said, were areas that demonstrated a "fine grain" of varied uses. "Having a shopping mall next to an office park doesn't cut it," said Speck, who was brought to Australia by the Committee for Sydney. "People will only choose to walk when the walk is useful, safe, comfortable and interesting." It is a perspective supported by Dr Cowie, who said the state government had an opportunity through its housing development schemes to create places that were both interesting and protected from traffic. "There's such an emphasis on urban renewal projects at the moment, and high density in-fill development, which is great, and these are good opportunities for transport and planning agencies to make our neighbourhoods more walkable." The study showed that even some high-density neighbourhoods contained areas that were not conducive to walkability. The insight of the study, therefore, is in its focus on trying to create interesting retail and recreational spaces away from heavy traffic. "So maybe having cycleways and walkways on a back-street rather than on a main road," Dr Cowie said of the study, co-written with other researchers. The study showed that about 40 per cent of Sydney neighbourhoods had high traffic density or law walkability, while about 5 per cent, mostly on the city's fringe, had the worst of both.