By Michael Rothenborg, October 2016
Toronto, Sydney, Auckland, Birmingham. More and more big cities are walking the talk and adopting walking strategies. Institutions like the London School of Economics are recommending that cities create “a better pedestrian flow”. Some experts even say the era of the car-dominated city is coming to a close.
Walking strategies seem to be the next big step towards creating more liveable cities. The main advantages include less congestion, lower CO2 emissions and better health.
The French city of Lyon is a particular case in point. In the past decade the city has reduced the number of cars within its perimeters by 20% – while its population has grown. Deputy Mayor of Lyon Gilles Vesco sums it up this way: “The goal is to rebalance the public space and create a city for people – a city with less pollution, less noise, less stress – a more walkable city.”
Like other progressive politicians, planners and experts, Gilles Vesco now speaks explicitly about the possibilities of a car-free inner city. Caroline Shaw, Public Health Physician from the University of Otago Wellington in New Zealand, also believes that “car-free inner cities should be part of any policy plan.”
“In New Zealand, both cycling and walking have been neglected in recent decades. We are now investing in cycling, which is long overdue, but we need to ensure the focus does not come off walking,” she says.
Oslo is on the go too
The Norwegian capital of Oslo has similar aims – and is looking to the UK, Australia and New Zealand for inspiration.
Earlier this year the Oslo city council recognised that pedestrians have a lower priority in the city’s traffic planning, and cycling and public transport behaviour has been mapped in far greater detail than pedestrian flows. So they invited Ramboll Norway to design a walking strategy before the end of 2016.
To complete the assignment, Ramboll will line up experts from Transport, Planning and Urban Design (PUD) and Management Consulting, taking a multi-faceted approach to achieving the three main objectives:
More people should walk for a longer period of the year. Walking should be an attractive – and safe – option for everyone. And walking should be incorporated into all urban planning. For example, pedestrians should have their own footpaths separate from cyclists, because the two groups move at very different paces, and Oslo has also seen a significant rise in the number of cyclists.
Norway’s National Transport Plan 2014-23 aims to ensure that traffic does not increase in major cities, and that traffic should only grow as regards public transport, cycling and walking. Because Oslo’s public transport system gets overloaded during rush hour, a main purpose of the new walking strategy is to encourage people to walk the shorter stretches instead of taking a city bus a few stops.
“We especially see potential in walking to work and school – and in people’s home districts,” says Frida Andersson, expert in urban mobility at Ramboll Norway.