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Posts from the ‘Walking’ Category

Walking is Climate Action

Treehugger.com 17 May 2019

We are never going to switch to electric cars in time to make a difference. That’s why we have to get out of our cars and walk.

Recently we reviewed the UK’s Committee on Climate Change report calling for a net zero nation by 2050, and I had some reservations, complaining that they focused on switching the nation to electric cars while pretty much ignoring alternatives. I wrote that “they do mention that ‘shifting to more sustainable modes of transport (walking and cycling) could be a cost-effective alternative to private car ownership depending on location,’ but never mention building infrastructure to support that, to make it viable for almost every location.”

This has been bothering me ever since, because it takes a lot of stuff to build an electric car, generating a lot of what I call upfront carbon emissions. And as I have been also saying forever, it is still a car, needing all that concrete infrastructure and parking. Those words “depending on location” let so many people off the hook. Then my favourite tweeter reminded me once again:

I have written before that bikes are climate action. I have also written that walking is transportation. But it is also true that walking is climate action.

In North America today, nobody takes walking seriously. There is the old joke that if you see someone walking in Houston, they are looking for their car. Nobody counts the walking as part of the trip; people have to walk to get to public transportation, and they have to walk to their cars, but that is considered secondary, ancillary to the main action. Given the number of driving trips that are under a mile, people may spend more time walking to their cars than they actually do driving.

Walking may not be the most efficient way to move a person (bikes probably are) but walking has significant advantages. We have written many posts about how walking is healthy and good for you, but as Melissa has summed it up, it also gets you from A to B.

Walking is not about gear or clothes or expertise; it’s easy, cheap, and exceedingly kind to the body. Walking for the sake of taking a walk is emotionally as well as physically pleasing; walking for the sake of getting somewhere is cheaper and easier on the planet than driving.

We talk about how important it is to make cities bike-friendly, but in fact, people walk vastly more than they bike, because they are often multi-modal, mixing it up with transit. We have noted before that even Americans walk. According to the Pedestrian and Vehicle Information Center,

…about 107.4 million Americans use walking as a regular mode of travel. This translates to approximately 51 percent of the traveling public. On average, these 107.4 million people used walking for transportation (as opposed to for recreation) three days per week….Walking trips also accounted for 4.9 percent of all trips to school and church and 11.4 percent of shopping and service trips.

But walking isn’t seen as serious or proper transportation; like bicycles, many people think of it as exercise or recreation. As Colin Pooley of Lancaster University has noted,

Pedestrians suffer from being classed as “walkers” – those who walk for pleasure rather than as a means of transport. The cultural dominance and convenience of the motor vehicle has meant that urban space has been disproportionately allocated towards cars and away from pedestrians. When walking for anything other than recreation is increasingly seen as abnormal, cars will always win.

We have to stop the cars from winning all the time. We have to stop pretending that electric cars will save us, because they won’t; they are going to take decades to get here and we do not have decades.

What we have to do is everything we possibly can to encourage walking. That means making our streets more comfortable for walking, even if we have to take space back from parking and from roads and make our streets more like they were before, as John Massengale’s fabulous photo of Lexington Avenue in New York shows.

We have to insist that all new residential development be built at a density where you can actually get somewhere, to a store or to good transit or to a doctor, by walking.

We have said so many times that walking is good for you. As Katherine has written,

Walking is a healthy, green way to transport oneself, but it requires time, which is at a premium nowadays. By making the time to walk, however, we create a healthier world filled with happier individuals.

But these days, most importantly, walking is climate action.

https://www.treehugger.com/walking/walking-climate-action.html H

a 22-fold increase from the current levels of one in 50 children cycling to school. Current (left) and potential (right) for cycling to school. Propensity to Cycle Tool, Author provided Even today’s best performing areas would see growth. For example, in Cambridge (with the highest levels of cycling across the country), the amount of children cycling to school would rise from 30% to 53%. All areas see substantial increase, even rural and hillier places; and no English local authority would have fewer than 16% of trips to school cycled. At present, child cyclists are almost absent from most of our streets, and this amount of child cycling is hard to imagine. To help planners visualise and plan for growth, the PCT maps cycling to school, along routes, in neighbourhoods, and for individual schools. Some roads might have as many as 500, 1,000 or more children pedalling along them, if we were able to create conditions that prioritise children over cars. “School streets” are one such policy, restricting car access at school times, leaving streets clear for children to walk, cycle, play, and socialise without fear of traffic injury. A school street in Southwark, London. © Will Norman, CC BY-NC Other options are to create more widespread interventions. For instance, London’s mini-Holland programme (in Enfield, Kingston, and Waltham Forest) involved closing some neighbourhoods to through motor traffic. Replacing rat runs with planters, play areas, and bike parking, the scheme is already resulting in an increase in walking and cycling. Health and climate benefits What might the benefits be of getting more children to ride to school? Many benefits can’t easily be quantified, such as the impacts of redressing long-term decline in children’s independent mobility. For children, available space has too often shrunk from whole neighbourhoods, to streets, to front or back yards – with the greatest impacts on children without access to private outdoor space. But some impacts can be quantified. The PCT shows that if England achieved its school cycling potential, the benefits could be huge. The calculations suggest that achieving the scenario outlined above would increase physical activity from school travel among pupils by 57% and reduce transport-related carbon emissions by 81 kilotonnes per year. These benefits vary by primary versus secondary school. Primary school children would see a 9% increase in physical activity from school travel (largely because many walk at present, with distances short). Secondary school children would see a 97% increase. Using World Health Organisation physical activity targets, the proportion of secondary school children getting at least half their recommended physical activity from active school travel would increase threefold, from 13.6% to 40.4%. We’ve got a long way to go before cycling to school is normalised. If we get there, the benefits are great: improved health and well-being, cars off the road, greater child (and parental) mobility and independence. This will involve a shift in mindset, prioritising children’s health over adults’ car-driving convenience. The new PCT layer contributes to an emerging evidence base to help local policymakers plan for, and prioritise, child cycling.

Government News, 25 March 2019

A league of experts is calling for targeted investment in walking infrastructure as Melbourne tests the 20-minute neighbourhood.

The 20-minute neighbourhood is based on the concept of ‘living locally’ by giving residents the opportunity to access all the services they need with a 20 minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.

The term, first coined by the state government in its five-year Plan Melbourne bid for a more liveable city, was explored at the MAV Smart Urban Futures event on Friday, where Duane Burtt from Victoria Walks joined a panel to discuss the program’s pilot project.

The program has the potential to transform resident behaviour while also improving perceptions of the local area, he says.

“I think it’s a new way of thinking about planning and economic development, for the state government in particular but also to an extent local government, and it does offer the potential to see stronger local communities from a number of dimensions –economically but also socially and in terms of health,” he told Government News.

The project is part of a broader bid to create a sustainable, less congested city as Melbourne’s population grows by 125,000 year-on-year.

On the back of the movement is a growing push for walking-friendly infrastructure to support healthier, less congested spaces.

Investment in walking infrastructure has the potential to generate substantial returns, Dr Francesca McClean, a consultant for city economics and planning at independent engineering firm Arup told the conference, with a benefit cost ratio of $13 for every $1 invested.

But she says the economic value of walking has been overlooked in some of Melbourne’s biggest transport plans despite inactivity costing the economy in excess of $13.8 billion each year.

“We’ve seen some major public transport business cases not take into account walking benefit streams,” she said.

Walking is aptly known as the “invisible mode” she says, and is often overlooked by urban-planners as a recognised transport mode when key infrastructure decisions are made.

Walking stimulates local economies

Infrastructure that encourages walking can boost local economies, Dr McClean argued, potentially reeling in thousands to local areas, as well as creating cities that are healthier and less congested and polluted.

Promoting just 30 minutes of walking a day can also help alleviate the costs associated with physical inactivity.

“Improved walkability can improve retail spend and the economic development of areas – some walking interventions can increase the number of people entering shops by 40 per cent and significantly increase the economic value of the grid,” she said.

Property prices spike in walkable areas

Cities with more walking infrastructure also have substantially higher property values, the conference was told.

Jodie Walker, a researcher at the Secret Agent, a property management company, told the event that walkable neighbourhoods are in high demand.

Ms Walker, who has been conducting research on the Melbourne property market for more than five years, said research from the Secret Agent found walkability accounted for as much as 60 per cent of price difference.

Walkability has a “protective effect” on property prices, she said, with the price of property increasing substantially in line with the walkability score of suburbs.

The same correlation applies for suburbs with a significant amount of greenery, Ms Walker told the event.

“Walkable regions will continue to grow individual economies and that will continue to push up property prices in these areas and also rents in these areas,” she said.

An innovative program in Melbourne is exploring the use of ‘nudges’ to encourage walking by train commuters and local school students.

The program, which was presented at the event by director of independent consulting practice Active City, Alice Woodruff, initiated a huge shift in locals’ perceptions of the desirability of walking, and in some areas, the uptake of walking.

The first project, which involved the erection of campaign signs at the train station to prompt people to walk, saw a five per cent lift in the number of people walking at a local station, Ringwood, and a five per cent increase in the rate at which regular walkers were walking to the station.

There was also a dramatic shift in perceptions, with 31 per cent of locals who usually drive considering walking as a result of the campaign.

Another program at a local primary school sought to encourage students to walk to school by incentivising walking through a series of rewards including giving students stickers or a badge at the end of the day and erecting a school wall chart.

The project saw more students walking to school, with 84 per cent of students who were previously walking, walking more and 45 per cent of students who usually drove walking to school.

20-minute suburbs: Australia’s walking-friendly cities

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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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