The 20th century belonged to the car, but two new reports from Arup and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation say the 21st century should belong to the pedestrian.
If Friedrich Nietzsche, Steve Jobs, and Charles Dickens were to meet at a celestial pub they would have at least one thing in common to talk about – all avid walkers they would like extol the benefits of travelling by foot.
As it goes for genius, so it goes for the mortals.
Arup and the Chartered Institute of Highway and Transportation (CIHT) have issued reports that point to benefits for pedestrians, as long as a city’s infrastructure is configured for walkers.
“Car culture is on the decline, at least in the Western world,” according to the report Cities Alive from Arup. ”Studies indicate that in North America, Japan, Australia and European countries we may have reached ‘peak car’ – the apex at which car ownership, licence ownership and the distance driven per vehicle level off, and then turn down.”
But cities are still often designed for car users, and that comes at a cost to health and wellbeing when people abandon journeys that could be taken on foot, says the report.
The CIHT report, A Transport Journey to a Healthier Life, notes that increased walking not only cuts obesity rates but also increases footfall for shop owners.
It calls for Public Health England to assess policies from the Department for Transport to determine how transport strategy impacts on health.
“At the very least they [public and private sectors] should assess the impacts on cycling or walking because HEAT (Health Economic Assessment Tool) developed by the World Health Organisation to provide an economic assessment of the physical health benefits of walking and cycling – already has credibility, and there are many practical examples of how to use it,” said the report.
There is no one option that can make all cities walkable.
“No single measure, whether electronic road pricing, transit-oriented development or walkability, will be successful in achieving sustainable mobility in cities,” noted University of Hong Kong professor Becky PY Loo in Cities Alive. ”The transport system needs to be considered holistically.”
“A sustainable mobility strategy for mega cities will not be suitable for low-density cities with substantial suburban sprawl. The key ideas are to ensure synergy of walkability with other transport policies, allow local participation and ensure a system of good governance,” she added.