The vast majority of travel takes place within cities. Recently, new data has become available which allows for the discovery of urban mobility patterns which differ from established results about long distance travel. Specifically, the latest evidence increasingly points to exponential trip length distributions, contrary to the scaling laws observed on larger scales. In this paper, in order to explore the origin of the exponential law, we propose a new model which can predict individual flows in urban areas better. Based on the model, we explain the exponential law of intra-urban mobility as a result of the exponential decrease in average population density in urban areas. Indeed, both empirical and analytical results indicate that the trip length and the population density share the same exponential decaying rate.