Good insight in walking, walkability and effective measures (technical feasibility) does not suffice to get conditions for pedestrians improved. The key is social and political feasibility. In this context insight in institutional preconditions is crucial.
Although lack of money is a much used argument for not taking up walkability policies, lacking leadership, knowledge & professional skills and co-operation are more prominent obstacles to change than the lack of resources. In practise walkability interventions are integrated in larger projects.
Walking and walkability generate huge liveability, economic and health benefits. In practise it is proved very difficult to quantify these benefits. Thus the argument loses weight against more easily quantifiable topics.
Future planning practitioners are now being educated in walking and walkability. In Breda university this education is built on a new handbook on walking, cascade planning, partnering, financial strategies, people and places and ‘practise what you preach’.
There is need for a walkability Knowledge Bank. In the Netherlands it considers to set up such a bank; the WALK21 website might also be an option, e.g. for opening up the rich database of WALK21 conference contributions and international key figures.
The State of the Art of walking and walkability policy making is conditioned by the Pedestrian Quality Needs project. Policy making front-runners are amongst others larger cities like London, Vienna and Copenhagen, but also Amsterdam and Utrecht. These cities carry out basic measuring programs, explorative research, and deliver good practise examples. National governments are beginning to support these front-running initiatives.
In the Netherlands some active municipalities (Utrecht, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Rotterdam and The Hague) actively promote walking. Induced by crowdedness of the streets impairing key city functions and environmental issues, these municipalities are currently implementing strategies. Particularly in city centres walking is a priority. Support has increased substantially.
Measuring Walking is taking form. If walking is not counted, it does not count. There is increasing interest, attitudes towards walking ameliorated and there are new methods and technologies for measuring walking. A Measuring Walking Standard has been developed (www.measuring-walking.org). The standard must be diffused more. Already first cities/countries are collecting data based on the Standard.
Apart from basic measuring (mobility, presence, incidents, health impacts and financial benefits), the workshop participants identified a number of new topics for measuring walking:
- Social and cultural dimensions of walking
- Equity, not as a solution but as a precondition
- Happiness, the joy of walking (smiles in the street) as status quo and as argument for improving walkability
- New problems are overcrowding and gentrification, as negative impact from mass effects.
Academic research on walking and walkability seems to focus on the effectiveness of interventions, street mobility, social impacts, epidemiological research (falls are an increasing problem), and pedestrian behaviour and what lies behind.
Universities are seldom able to carry our unfunded research. Walking and walkability research proved to be very difficult to get funded. One way to do it is sneak it in under larger projects. This is successfully done in Manchester.
The workshop participants to elaborate four project ideas: 1) Sidewalks and Public Transport, 2) Measuring Walking in Dutch cities, 3) Walkability Index and Awards, and 4)Walking and Society research.
A follow-up meeting to this first Make Walking Attractive Workshop will be organised. University College of London (UCL) offered to host the meeting at UCL Transport section September 2018.