Cyclists and a jogger in Brisbane's Powerhouse Park. Credit Brisbane City Council (Creative Commons / Flickr)

+ Making changes in our behaviour - like cycling to work rather than driving - is as important as urban planning and design when it comes to nurturing community in our neighbourhoods. (Photo credit: Brisbane City Council / Creative Commons)

The planning of new places or renewal of areas within our cities presents the perfect opportunity to build places to encourage the development of community. But there are a lot of places within our cities that won't physically change any time soon. That's why I believe that making changes in our behaviour is as important as urban planning and design when it comes to nurturing community in our neighbourhoods.

I am part of many communities: my family, my friends, my work, my netball club, my online networks and my neighbourhood. But it's 'neighbourhood' that's got me thinking recently. I know my neighbours (most of them anyway!) but I don’t feel especially connected to local community and places.

It seems to me that we put a lot of effort into turning the tables on our lack of connection to the places we live through urban planning – moulding our built environment to foster closer connections to our geographic location. We do this by linking our home and work lives closer together by physical proximity or planning public and active transport infrastructure.

We’re no longer planning separate business and residential places. Instead, we’re mixing the two up so that we can live, work and play in the same geographic area. We’re trying to remove the ‘commute’ from our day-to-day lives, which will give us time to interact with local people and places. The more time we spend dwelling in our neighbourhood, the more likely we will be to meet our neighbours, discover special local places and build rewarding connections with our communities.

That's why I'm making changes to my daily routine so that I can get better acquainted with my neighbourhood. I have started cycling to work. The friendly greetings from fellow cyclists (that you just can't get in a car) make me feel more connected to my local community. And recently while exploring the local area on foot, I stumbled upon a fantastic breakfast spot a mere five minutes from my doorstep.

It's rewards like these that will keep me looking for ways to better connect with my local neighbourhood community. What do you think? I'd love to hear your ideas and experiences.