IV. Walkable urban places — Political benefits

Walking is increasingly a political agenda as cities fight to reduce cars, congestion and pollution while striving for a safer, healthier, more vibrant community of residents and visitors alike. A rising consciousness around the fundamental role of public space is leading cities to update out-dated regulations based around cars and parking in favour of a more holistic view of mobility and access. These and other policies are actively trying to get people back onto to the streets thanks to micro and temporary solutions.1

Walkability requires political will from local policymakers to use public resources to further that goal. It means adding walkability projects to budgets and prioritizing walkability over other issues competing for public resources. The political will to make those decisions will materialize only in response to a loud and influential constituency.

“An active city is a city with a chance. It’s a city with a future. It’s a place that’s designed for people to move throughout their day-to-day lives.”

Nike, Designed to move active cities, 2015

Robert Steuteville, editor of Public Square (a CNU Journal), has been publishing a series of articles based on the 2016 Cities Alive: Towards a walking world report, which shows the benefits of walkable cities – social, economic, environmental and political – and sets out measures for improving walkability.

This post itemizes the list from Steuteville’s article (link embedded in heading below), and includes additional details from the report.

Ten political benefits of walkable places

  1. Enhancing tax revenue
    Reoriented for pedestrians, neighbourhoods can thrive and diversify to better support local economies, raise quality of life indicators, and improve local and regional environmental conditions.
  2. Fostering competitiveness
    Investing in walkability raises cities’ competitiveness and their importance in the global cities network. Today, urban competitiveness is more than ever a central issue for local public policies due to globalisation and the integration of markets.
  3. Building public consensus
    Brave decisions may generate strong short-term resistance but build long-term consensus. If broad support for walking infrastructure and walking friendly environments can be achieved across the community, political support will naturally follow.
  4. Supporting urban centres
    Walking is better for the planet, better for your mind and better for your body. As it becomes more prevalent, cities are shifting their urban designs to incorporate public space and corridors and making them pleasant and safe at a human scale.
  5. Promoting citizen empowerment
    Empowerment is the process that enhances the individual and collective capacity to make choices and to transform them into concrete actions. Cities may empower their citizens’ responsibility promoting collaborative economic models.
  6. Promotes sustainable behaviour
    Cities are the main contributors to climate change, responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions; they are vulnerable systems and their future wellbeing is strictly related to their ability to change negative transport habits, and turn towards a more sustainable future.
  7. Supporting regeneration processes
    Shaping a more walkable city involves redesigning the space in order to reduce car dominance and marks the pedestrian re-appropriation of the street. The addition of free and flexible pedestrian space created by the removal of cars fosters new opportunities for unprecedented urban transformation.
  8. Addressing city resilience
    Resilience is a crucial characteristic for all cities fighting to keep up with the rapid transformation that they are undergoing. Key elements of any walkable city – such as having multiple services within a short distance – make cities more resilient.
  9. Boosting flexibility and enabling micro-solutions
    Some studies have shown a strong correlation between walkable environments and the development of creative and innovative ideas and solutions.
  10. Promoting cultural heritage
    As processes of globalisation transform places, cities try to grasp onto their own unique characters. A city’s heritage helps to define the identity of a place, and it is a fundamental feature that enhances social cohesiveness, economic prosperity and competitiveness.

“A city’s ability to compete depends on an active population. The research is clear on this. Integrating physical activity into the places we work, live, learn, travel and play is the only way to ensure we move enough to thrive.”

Nike, Designed to move active cities, 2015

1 Excerpts from Cities Alive: Towards a walking world, a report published by Arup in 2016.


More on this topic:

Author: New Charlottetown Project

Barbara Dylla has lived in Charlottetown since 2017. The aim of this blog is to inspire and encourage Charlottetowners to be more aware of municipal affairs, to participate as engaged citizens, to support an issue close to their heart, so that together we create a sense of the larger community we live in. And, along the way, become a united community passionate about making Charlottetown the best it can be.

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