With the urban share of the world’s population expected to increase to 70 percent by 2050, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy is introducing a new tool to help governments, city planners, NGOs, and developers make cities more equitable, healthy, safe, and vibrant. The simple solution? Walkability.
The new tool, Pedestrians First: Tools for a Walkable City will facilitate the understanding and the measurement of the features that promote walkability in urban environments around the world at multiple levels. With a better global understanding of walkability, and more consistent and frequent measurement of the walkability of urban environments, decision-makers will be empowered to enact policies that create more walkable urban areas.
“Cities around the world are recognizing how essential walkability is for the access and health of their citizens, and the economic growth of their cities,” Says Joe Chestnut, Research Associate at ITDP and the author of Pedestrians First, “but walkability is not just a sidewalk, it’s a whole system of design and infrastructure. This tool lays out the basics, with checklists, examples, and policy recommendations to create an enjoyable walking environment in any city.”
Using the framework developed by ITDP for their TOD Standard, Pedestrians First breaks down eleven indicators for measuring walkability, with each indicator and their measurement methods discussed in detail.
The most basic feature of urban walkability is complete, continuous, and safe walkway networks that provide clear protection from motor vehicles and are accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.
Best Practice: Liuyun Xiaoqu, Guangzhou, China Liuyun Xiaoqu had been a gated residential complex with clogged streets. The development is now a public center of the Tianhe District’s daily life with car-free, walkable corridors and a lively retail hub that serves residents and shoppers alike.
Crosswalks are necessary for safely connecting the walkway network across vehicle traffic and are a critical part of making walkable areas accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.
- Visually Active Frontage
Visually active frontages promote safety from crime in walkable areas through informal observation and surveillance by people inside buildings. This is often described as “eyes on the street.”
Best Practice: Central Saint Giles, London, UK
London’s Central Saint Giles development has exclusive restaurants, trendy corporate tenants, luxury, and affordable housing units—but very little parking (mostly reserved for people with disabilities). The site is organized around a public plaza and has ample cycle parking as well as its own bike-share station.
- Physically Permeable Frontage
Sidewalks that are lined with continuous ground-floor activity and services have fewer zones of inactivity, thereby creating a more attractive walking environment that is safer from crime.
- Shade and Shelter
Shade and shelter help to make the walkable environment more comfortable and more accessible by protecting pedestrians from heat, rain, and other elements.
- Small Blocks
Small blocks reduce trip distances, making walking more convenient for trips.
Connectivity that prioritizes walking over motorized forms of transportation improves walkability by making walking more convenient relative to other modes of transportation.
Best Practice: Vastra Hammen, Malmö, Sweden Vastra Hammen has more pedestrian intersection points than vehicle intersection points, making walking the primary, and easiest, method of access.
- Complementary Uses
A mix of uses reduces the distance between homes and services, thereby improving access. Shorter trips are more likely to be done by walking.
- Access to Local Services
Having basic services within easy walking distance enables more of these trips to be undertaken on foot.
- Driveway Density
An urban walking environment that minimizes the locations where pedestrian must cross the path of cars leads to a safer and more comfortable walking experience.
- Roadway Area
Minimizing the space given to motorized forms of transportation provides more space for walking infrastructure, such as sidewalks, and minimizes car speeds and volumes, leading to a safer, more convenient walking environment.
“There are many places where the car-centric lifestyle is becoming a thing of the past. People increasingly want to have the option to live in a walkable area, and real estate developers are responding to this,” said Chestnut. “This is great progress, but it is important that walkability isn’t a luxury, its an essential component of equity and sustainability, particularly in the rapidly growing cities of the global south. These developments are great examples of the direction in which we’d like to see development going, oriented towards walking and prioritizing people over cars.”
Download the Pedestrians First Walkability Tool here.