NEW eReport #90: Bicycling and Walking in the City

This new eReport presents some of the best examples of planning for pedestrians and bicyclists from Europe and the US, together with design strategies and research tools. Including videos, slides and papers by 11 outstanding leaders and researchers in the field, this is an invaluable handbook for all concerned with improving conditions for walking and bicycling, and offers research related to active mobility.

Freiburg, Germany, a model city for bicycle planning, began 40 years ago a policy to improve conditions for walking and bicycling. Dr. Sven von Ungern-Sternberg, who served as Mayor for Planning for twenty years, explains the improvements made under his direction, and the lessons learned as they went along.

The designs for independent bicycle tracks that avoided car traffic entirely evolved over the years. Together with bike and walking trails, bicycle-friendly streets, and clearly demarcated bicycle lanes adjacent to traffic, the bike network is now 420 km. Separate lanes for different direction travel, bike boxes, protected bicycle parking, bike and ride strategies, and the central bicycle station now offer such attractive options that almost 30% of all trips in Freiburg are now made by bike.

Shared Space Street Design was the subject of renowned urban designer, Ben Hamilton-Baillie.  Following in the footsteps of Hans Monderman, he shows that when sidewalks are removed, lighting improved, and brick and stone setts replace asphalt, driver behavior changes, traffic slows, and the street becomes far safer for pedestrians. He provides examples of his Shared Space Street Designs in cities across the UK and Europe.

In his paper and slides, John Pittari, Professor at Auburn University, reports on an ongoing “Designing Healthy Places Initiative” in Birmingham, AL, launched by the University. The plan for downtown will link attractions; improve way finding; enhance the public realm; better the retail environment; and increase potential for employees, residents and visitors to walk and cycle.

The unhealthy suburban situation, so common across North America, in which highways offer no safe place for the pedestrian, is the starting point of Stephen Sugg’s paper and slides. As City Manager of University Place, WA, Sugg first oversaw the redesign of highways to provide sidewalks and street trees. This has been followed by the ongoing creation of a town center with mixed-use urban fabric, public space and town hall that are supported by the increased walkability of the street system.

Increasing physical activity levels is an important aim of current public health policy in the UK. An opportunity for working adults to increase physical activity levels may be through walking during the daily commute. The aim of this study, reported by Dr. Suzanne Audrey, University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine, UK,  was to develop an employer-led scheme to increase walking to work, and test the feasibility of implementing and evaluating the intervention. Working with employees in 8 workplaces, the goal was to encourage walking to work; help identify walking routes; and encourage goal setting. Participants living within 2 miles had higher levels of physical activity, but the study showed that wider policy initiatives are needed.

Knowing that elements of the built environment may influence physical activity levels of older people, Jonna Monaghan, Health and Wellbeing Manager, with Anne McCusker, Policy and Projects Officer at Belfast Healthy Cities conducted a pilot Walkability Assessment in Belfast. They engaged older people in assessing neighborhood features such as land-use mix, street connectivity, quality of the built environment and personal safety. Parks, the city center, and neighborhood streets were evaluated. Their recommendations include involving older people in developing planning frameworks to improve the city’s walkability.

Bernardita Calinao, Deputy Director of OFAS, reports on research using a more technologically sophisticated method for the assessment of Manhattan’s West Village walkability – a head-mounted sports action camera. Eight walkability criteria were considered: beauty, utility, safety, comfort, access, vitality, interest, and legibility to evaluate the overall walkability of different streets and different routes through the neighborhood.

Bruce Appleyard, Assistant Professor of City Planning & Urban Design at San Diego State University, CA, suggests that livability is best understood as an individual’s ability to access opportunities to improve their quality of life. In the realm of transportation, however, one person’s choice of travel mode may negatively impact another person’s quality of life.

In a just society all individuals must be assured equal access to such opportunities. Appleyard lays out the moral and ethical framework that must therefore guide work to achieve accessibility and livability.

The concept of Legible Cities is to activate and pedestrianize the center of cities, to give the urban realm back to walkers, thus creating healthier cities and reaching urban goals involving both health and sustainability. Bristol was the first Legible City, the first to have the system in place, followed by Legible London. Tim Fendley, Partner of Applied Wayfinding, in London, UK demonstrates that the impact and benefit to the city of this effort has been proven, not only in terms of sustainable travel and increased footfall to boost the economy, but in its citizens’ health as well.

The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is moving to the dense, pedestrian, mixed-use neighborhoods of America that allow them the freedom to live without an automobile, leaving behind the sprawling suburbs they grew up in. This generation is now the largest in the US, larger than their parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers, and larger than the generation after them, Generation Z. Most importantly, they “vastly favor communities with street life, the pedestrian culture that can only come from walkability”. Ann Rothove from Arizona State University examines what strategies the Phoenix metropolitan area, known for its sprawling suburbs and car dependency, might apply to sustain its relevancy for the future.

In response to new earthquake building codes, the city of Eskisehir, Turkey is developing a new urban land use plan emphasizing improvements in walkability and green-space. Integration of improved recreation opportunities, educational outreach, and outdoor green spaces allows citizens to utilize the walkability of their city. The plan focuses on the redevelopment of the historical character, pedestrian and automobile interface, as well as existing land uses. Anna Averett, at the University of Georgia discusses a service learning project that provides US planning students with an opportunity to work on these issues in an international setting with a focus on Physical Planning for Healthy Cities.

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