Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Walking’ Category

Making cities more walkable by understanding how other people influence our journeys

The Conversation, 19 February 2019

Cities around the world are changing to become more “walkable”. As more and more people move to cities, the benefits of encouraging people to walk are clear. Aside from making the urban environment more pleasant, safer and less polluted, improving a city’s walkability can also ease traffic congestion and improve public health.
This is a particular challenge in cities built for cars, so there’s been lots of research to find out what sort of features make a city more attractive to pedestrians, and encourage them to walk further and more often: whether it’s the size of urban blocks, the quality of the pavement, the presence of trees or street furniture or initiatives such as car-free zones.

But while planners and researchers strive to work out what makes urban spaces enticing to pedestrians, they often overlook the fact that people’s decisions about where to walk, and when, are not only determined by the physical qualities of the environment. In fact, new research suggests that these choices are strongly influenced by other people.

Under the influence

There’s already lots of evidence that people are highly influenced by their friendship groups. As early as the 1970s, an American sociologist called Mark Granovetter suggested that the spread of rumours, adoption of new tech and job searches were all influenced by a person’s social network – especially their “weak ties” with acquaintances.

At the same time, two other American sociologists, Paul Burstein and Carl Sheingold, found that political voting patterns were also significantly influenced by a person’s social network. Even more recently, researchers discovered that you are more likely to be obese if your social network contains obese friends.
There’s clear evidence that there’s a social dimension to walking, too. For example, a child is more likely to walk to school if they have a sibling or friend to walk with. Gender, class and the distance to work all affect whether or not a person chooses to walk. And people prefer to go with friends when walking for leisure in the city.

More than that, in new research I conducted with colleagues at ETH Zurich and the University of California, we looked at how the routes people choose to take when walking can be influenced by others; we call this phenomenon “social wayfinding”.

Social wayfinding

Perhaps the clearest example of social wayfinding is when two or more people are walking together, trying to reach a destination. They might plan where to go, identify landmarks along the way, and discuss their choice of route together.

This activity becomes less social when one person leads the way, and others follow along; whether that’s a guide leading a tour, or a person leading a friend to their house. Both of these are examples of “strong” social wayfinding, because decisions about where to go are directly and intentionally influenced by other people.
Social wayfinding also happens when pedestrians take hints from others, which influences their choice of route. When a walker believes that other travellers might share the same destination – for example, when they follow fellow supporters from the train station to the football stadium for a match – he or she may simply go with the flow.

Similarly, the movement of people through a gap between two buildings might indicate a shortcut you wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. This is what we call “weak” social wayfinding.

Timing also plays a role. For example, directions or guidance can be given before a journey, or while walking (over the phone, for example). It can even be that the past movements of others leave “social trails”, which can indirectly inform pedestrians where to go – like the worn tracks across grass, which might hint at a shortcut through a park.

The social city

Of course, people navigate using many different types of social wayfinding during the course of their walk. Apps such as Google Maps or Citymapper can also be used in a social way: although they’re typically designed with a single navigator in mind, in reality it’s not unusual for two or more people to be using a device at the same time, passing it around, discussing the instructions and jointly making decisions about where to go.
To create walkable cities, of course it’s important for planners and city leaders to understand what sort of physical features encourage people to walk more. But acknowledging how social interactions influence people’s choices about when and where to walk would give leaders a much more realistic understanding of people’s behaviour – and put them in a better position to encourage walking as a means of getting around.

Understanding how other people influence wayfinding could also clear the way for many exciting technological innovations, which could make cities easier to navigate. Social trails could be mapped by digital apps or physical markers, and signage could be dynamic, possibly even functioning like an online recommendation system – for example, by flagging quieter routes during busy periods of the day. Wayfinding aids such as maps, signage and apps can be tested on groups, as well as individuals, to make them more useful in both settings.

By being more responsive to the social influences, which affect where people choose to walk, urban planners and leaders could gain valuable information about the way people use the city, and make smarter decisions about what to build, and where.

https://theconversation.com/making-cities-more-walkable-by-understanding-how-other-people-influence-our-journeys-111767

E-Scooters Could be a Last-Mile Solution for Everyone

ITDP, 14 December 2018

Like docked and dockless bikeshare before them, dockless electric “kick” scooters are taking off in popularity, responding to a strong and growing need for urban car alternatives like transit and “last mile” connections. As part of a menu of urban transportation options, scooters have the potential to reduce short-distance, single occupancy vehicle and TNC (Transportation Network Company, e.g. Uber, Lyft, Via) trips, reducing urban congestion and emissions.

Scooters provide a low cost, flexible mobility option for short trips, particularly those connected to transit. Bikes have long provided an excellent option for last-mile trips, and they continue to do so. However, the popularity, and user-friendliness of e-scooters may offer an even easier option for the first and last mile.
Scooters, particularly e-scooters, offer an option that pretty much anyone, regardless of fitness or ability, can ride for short trips. As with shared bikes, cities have an opportunity to leverage scooters, and other privately-operated, shared modes in a way that more directly encourages their use in coordination with transit. For example, cities could work with operators to subsidize scooter and bikeshare rides that start or end at transit using common payment options. This level of targeted integration benefits cities by expanding access to transit at a relatively low cost per mile (compared to building new stations, adding buses, etc.), benefits users by making sustainable, multi-modal trips more streamlined and affordable, and benefits companies by establishing a loyal, diverse customer base.

Scooters, bikes, and other technology-enabled shared modes have a role to play in shifting the paradigm away from personal car ownership. Cities can take advantage of this opportunity by understanding the demand for car-alternatives for short trips, and setting smart, goal-oriented regulations that help address that demand. Data from Portland’s scooter pilot shows that 34% of resident scooter riders would have otherwise driven a personal car or taken a taxi or TNC if a scooter hadn’t been available for their most recent trip. While this is promising support for scooters helping to reduce car trips, the data also indicates that 37% of respondents would have otherwise walked if a scooter wasn’t available. When asked how often they rode a scooter to or from a transit stop, 61% responded ‘never’. These last two data points underscore the need for cities to ensure that scooters support public transit, walking and cycling, instead of competing with these modes.

More, and longer-term data on scooter trips could help cities decide whether scooters are, in fact, providing a first-last mile connection to transit, substituting car trips, or pushing pedestrians and cyclists away from biking and walking.

Funding the Last-Mile Solution

Cities are now more prepared for the “ask forgiveness, not permission” attitude of privately-operated mobility services, and are responding to the unpermitted launch of e-scooters much more quickly and systematically than with transportation network companies like Uber, or even dockless bikeshare companies. While a few cities have outright banned scooters, most have launched pilots to test regulations and evaluate potential for long-term integration of scooters into the transportation network. In some cases, such as in Austin, Denver, and Los Angeles, cities are moving to combine permitting of dockless bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters under a common regulatory scheme.

Other cities are taking more concrete steps to improve scooter and bike riders’ comfort on the street by requiring private operators to help fund infrastructure and other road safety improvements. Indianapolis is the first city to require scooter operators to pay $1 per scooter per day into a fund for road safety improvements for cyclists and scooter riders. Scooter operator, Bird, has volunteered to pay a similar amount for infrastructure improvements in other cities (many of which have been hesitant to accept Bird’s offer) however, some reportedly do not have a process in place to accept this type of funding from the private sector. Regardless, this new model of collaboration between cities and private companies to fund projects that make choosing a scooter or bike as a last-mile solution safer could prove successful, as long as cities are clear about what their goals are and why they are asking companies to share costs.

Encouraging the use of dockless scooters as a first-last mile option could also help connect people living further from the city center to public transit. Residents who live in outer neighborhoods tend to have fewer transit options, and likely require both a first and last mile solution for their trip. These residents stand to benefit the most from improved access to reliable, affordable first-last mile options.

Cities and e-scooter operators have an opportunity to learn from bikeshare by recognizing the demand – especially in neighborhoods further from downtown – for low-cost, reliable transportation options that aren’t private vehicles. It’s also critical for cities to realize their role in supporting sustainable transport like bikeshare and e-scootershare with protected infrastructure that can serve cyclists and scooters well, along with cost-effective and convenient connections with transit. Technology and private capital offer cities great tools to improve the lives of their residents, and taking full advantage of these tools means making space on our streets for many mobility options: scooters, bikes, transit, and shared vehicles all have a role to play in a healthy, vibrant transport system.

E-Scooters Could be a Last-Mile Solution for Everyone

Oslo prepares for ‘war on cars’

New Mobility News, 25 September 2018
Oslo, with its 675.000 inhabitants, is preparing for ‘a war on cars’ and ‘is seriously violating freedom’, critics in the Norwegian capital say, now city government is forcing the car – including the electric one – more and more out of the city centre. “We have to give the city back to the people, to let children play in security and let elderly people find a bench to sit on”, Hanna Marcussen, ecologist and in charge of urban development, says.

Read more

The Pedestrian Strikes Back

New York Times, 15 December 2018
In many of the major cities of the world, it has begun to dawn even on public officials that walking is a highly efficient means of transit, as well as one of the great underrated pleasures in life. A few major cities have even tentatively begun to take back their streets for pedestrians.
Read more

Young people want walkable neighbourhoods, but safety is a worry

The Conversation, 18 December 2017
We all know physical activity is good for us; that most of us should do more of it; and that walking is a cheap and convenient physical activity. So, all those people we see out there pounding the pavement are doing it to get healthy, right? Well, no, especially the young people. When you ask people aged 15 to 20 why they walk, they’ll likely tell you it’s to get to places cheaply and independently, or to relax or calm down when stressed or angry. They largely see health as a byproduct of walking, rather than a reason for walking. It is, however, a very valuable byproduct. Walking for transport alone accounts for 48% of total physical activity time for 18-to-24-year-old Australians.
Read more

Paris Banned Cars For The Day And It Looked Stunning

Huffington Post, 2 October 2017
Paris has pulled off its most ambitious ‘car-free day’ yet, with 105 square kilometres of the French capital set aside for pedestrians and cyclists. In its third year, the ban on all private cars and motorised bikes took place between 11am and 6pm on Sunday in a fight against air pollution in the city. The only exceptions were for taxis, public transport and emergency vehicles — and if police caught Parisians driving, they faced fines of up to $200.

Read more

Spend more money on the public space – for all our sakes

The Guardian, 31 May 2017
Imagine designing one of our great cities from scratch. You would quickly discover that there is enough physical space for magnificent parks, playing fields, public swimming pools, urban nature reserves and allotments sufficient to meet the needs of everyone. Alternatively, you could designate the same space to a small proportion of its people – the richest citizens – who can afford large gardens, perhaps with their own swimming pools. The only way of securing space for both is to allow the suburbs to sprawl until the city becomes dysfunctional: impossible to supply with efficient services, lacking a sense of civic cohesion, and permanently snarled in traffic: Los Angeles for all.
Read more

Germany installs ground-level traffic lights for distracted cellphone users

CNBC, 26 April 2016
Cellphone users glued to their devices while navigating city streets are about to get a guiding light. These pedestrians, dubbed “smombies” — smartphone zombies — in Germany, are slated to get special traffic lights to help them avoid oncoming traffic in Bavaria, according a Mashable article, citing a local German publication.
Read more

The road rule drivers always get wrong

Sydney Morning Herald, 15 February 2017
Another day, another police crackdown on pedestrians and cyclists. This week it was the NSW Police running a 12-hour blitz in the Sydney CBD and surrounding suburbs, called Operation Pedro.
Read more

London cycling: pedestrians, congestion and learning from mistakes

The Guardian, 13 October 2016
As Sadiq Khan and his deputy for transport Val Shawcross assess applicants for the role of cycling and walking commissioner, it is becoming ever more apparent that much must be learned from the failings of the previous mayoral regime. Shawcross herself seems fully alive this, observing in a recent interview that cycling policy should not only be about servicing the existing (and rather narrow) commuter and otherwise committed cyclist demographic but properly recognising others’ interests too. “The way some of the previous schemes have been consulted on and designed has led to some residents, who don’t see themselves as cyclists, feeling disadvantaged,” she correctly observed. “I think it’s important that everybody sees that the cycling and walking agenda is for all of us”.

Read more

css.php