You can try turning this question around and see how voice leading paradigms result in the different root movements.
Basic voice leading holds common tones between chords and moves the other voice the smallest distance to the tones of the other chord.
With triadic harmony there are only 3 possibilities for moving the voices: move 1 voice, 2 voices, or 3 voices.
When those basic rules are put together we get chord progressions whose roots move by descending/ascending 5th, 2nd, and 3rd...
1. root progression by descending/ascending fifth
- all step-wise in two voices
- parallel 3rds and 6ths
2. root progression by ascending 2nd
- stepwise and thirds (leaps) in all thre voices in contrary motion to the bass
- parallel 3rds and 6ths
- direct perfect 4ths
3. root progression by descending 2nd
- all step-wise in all three voices parallel to the bass which plays the third of each chord
- parallel 3rds, 6ths, and 4ths
4. root progression by ascending third
- step-wise in one voice only
- oblique motion between 3rds and 4ths
In my notation I put a line between notes of the moving voices to show the relative motion and position.
I tried to typical functions: circle of fifths sequences,
IV V for ascending 2nd, dominant harmony for ascending 3rd. Ascending 3rd is rare in common practice so I decided to demonstrate with dominant harmony
V viio this could be interpreted as a non-progression and instead an arpeggiation of the larger
I put inversion figures in parenthesis to show that all these progression types - except #2 roots by descending 2nd, parallel sixth chords - can be used over root position bass parts.
Back to the original question...
...root movement of an upward fourth and descending fifth ...are there situations in which a bass that moves by step is more appropriate?
Part of the problem is the question sort of switches back and forth between bass motion in terms or root and actual tones. Keep in mind that the tones the bass plays are not necessarily chord roots. In the four paradigms above the bass is a root position (except type #3) but the actual bass voice moves variously by descending/ascending 5ths and 2nds, as well as 3rds.
But another model should be added to those voice leading paradigms: the rule of the octave. The rule of the octave is a harmony model about how to harmonize a step-wise bass line. It's part of common practice harmony:
...if you examine the harmony you will see that while the bass movement is entirely step-wise the roots are almost all descending/ascending 5ths.
There is a complete mix of possibilities bass movement by step and leaps and chords in root position or inverted.
Regarding Changes by David Bowie: I don't think the 'traditional theory' approach would be to play the harmony all in root position. Understanding 'traditional theory' to mean common practice, the chord changes are the un-traditional part! Common practice might have kept the descending bass line harmonized it with slightly different chord, chords that would be mostly tonic/dominant.