walking conditions

The following are notes from the plenary presentations and breakout workshops I attended during the first day of the Walk21 conference in Toronto, Oct 2 2007.

Discussed are the need for getting citizens involved in creating walkable spaces, ways of measuring the walkability of a place and making it more walkable, and reasons why that’s not only good for our health but also the local economy.

Previously posted notes related to this conference can be found under the catagory notes from walk21.



Bronwen Thornton, Walk21 Development Director

Public toilets and benches are essential for creating a walkable street. It makes it accessible to people of all ages and abilities.



Daniel Egan, Pedestrian and Cycling Infrastructure, City of Toronto
Priority for Public Process

1. Involve citizens at each step
2. Place pedestrians at the top of the hierarchy
3. Narrow the streets, widen the sidewalks

Link the goal of walkability with existing programs. Show how being walkable advances or complements other initiatives.

Take the risk of implementing pilot projects and test projects. If there is an idea that sounds like it has potential but doesn’t have a precedent, try it. Even if it fails or doesn’t work as expected, it can be used as a learning experience. It also seemed that he was suggesting that creating change, even if temporary, makes a public space more dynamic, and might encourage dialogue and inspire ideas for its potential, for the possibilities of what it could become.

Graham A. Vincent, Director of Transportation Planning, Regional District of Waterloo

Pedestrians are the primary indicator of quality of life and vibrancy in a city.

Cities can achieve big impact for marginal cost, eg. street trees.

Integrate networks and connect diverse activity nodes. Clustering uses in a walkable environment makes using public transit to, from or between those nodes a reasonable option.

Build sidewalks. People are much less likely to walk in areas without connecting sidewalks.

Facilitate more events. They foster the idea of walking and a sense of neighbourhiness and community spirit.

Most cities have basic urban plans. Finish the urban design guidelines and use those to create standards for engineers. Have the design inform the engineering decisions so there have a model or direction to follow.

Use integrated land use planning. The impacts development plans on transportation systems and walkability must be fully thought out and incorporated into the plans.

Some people will sometimes walk for the sake of walking, but to get more people walking often, they need to have somewhere to walk to.

Paul Baskcomb, Department of Growth and Development, City of Greater Sudbury

To plan a more walkable community, 65 people participated in a day-long workshop including councillors, local health agencies, provincial agencies, etc.

The city issued a walking challenge to its citizens and distributed pedometers.

/* Note to self: google Bogota Colombia to learn more about transportation planning focused on pedestrian and bicycle networks

David Anderson, Mayor, Town of Minto

Develop a checklist for planners and politicians – key components of walkability. This will help make it very clear and easy to assess how well a proposal supports the goal of a great walkable community.



Miles Tight, Leeds University
Techniques for Assessing the Walkability of the Pedestrian Environment

Public priority was measured for elements or traits that make them feel comfortable or discouraged from walking.
• Cleanliness (dog evidence)
• Safe
• Lighting
• Cyclists
• Connectivity
• Greenery
• Building facing sidewalk

One of the methods they used in the public consultation process was to present hypothetical choices to test stated priorities.

It is more important to improve the quality of the current walking experience instead of just quantity – improve the experience for the people already walking.

Chanam Lee, Texas A&M University
Walkability and Economic Value

Their research shows that the grocery store is the top destination for people walking. The number of markets within a certain distance is related to that local population’s consumption of fruit and vegetables

/* Note to self: google the “Seattle WBC Survey”

Often the reason for low rates of walking is there is “nowhere to go.”

The benefits of designing attractive and inviting places is reflected property values. Their research considered the strip mall. Shopping centres with a varied roofline have higher improvement values for property assessment.

/* Note to self: google Active Living By Design



Tim Pharaoh (UK)

Successful streets are streets with people. Streets do not have to be well designed to attract people. Good urban design, good architecture by itself does not attract people. Poor mix of uses means activity will be limited to a particular time of day.

The most important consideration is CONTEXT!! Consider the culture of the local community and area layout – urban grid and connectivity, and competing locations.

1. Sufficient population (residents or visitors)
2. Street network makes it possible to walk – connected, facilities grouped together
3. Streets designed for people to walk in
  a. Connected
  b. Convenient
  c. Comfortable
  d. Conspicuous – clear to see where you’re going
  e. Convivial, friendly

The street is primary – don’t believe otherwise … but discourage car-dominated streets. Use tighter turning circles, low speed design, and design buildings with front doors on the street.

4. People present
  a. Mixed use
  b. Work where they shop

5. People not being in vehicles – get them out of their cars

People make 3 trips per day on average. The challenge is to increase dual or multiple modality.

London had a population of 8 million people before cars. They used walking, busses, rail, etc… even in the suburbs.

With pedestrians, a street gets a greater presence of people. With vehicles, people are just passing through.

  presence flow
Vehicles 17 27
Pedestrians 36 13

It is said that we build it because that’s what people want… “that’s complete rubbish”

It’s harder to get places built that are good for walking than to not build places not walkable. It’s easier for developers to design to the accepted engineering standards because it’s faster – less planning time and less risk in the approvals process. This discourages innovative design.

From a pedestrian perspective, “roundabouts are the worst English export”

Leo (I didn’t catch his last name) – Toronto

Toronto is working to make 50s suburbs, such as Don Mills, pedestrian friendly by changing the pattern of network roads and walkways. Definition is often lost in suburbs due to large spaces between buildings. They have reworked street grid with landowners and ratepayer groups.

Line the edges of open spaces with active uses. This will bring people, activity, and safety to those spaces.

His advice is to find ways to increase the fineness of the network grain.

Sohyun Park, Seoul Korea

Walking in a Historic Residential Neighbourhood in Seoul Korea: A Different Perspective
Research was done to compare the walkability of historic and traditional neighbourhoods in Korea and North America.

Higher density, more mixed uses and more connectivity creates a more walkable environment which results in more walking. This is true of the neo-traditional neighbourhoods in North America [my word; she simply called it “traditional”, but the pictures showed new, modern high density podium and tower neighbourhoods].

How does this compare to the historic Seoul neighbourhood? Bukchon is the study example. They used 17 measurable “walkability indicators.”

Researchers were very surprised to find the historic neighbourhood less walkable than modern highrise neighbourhoods. Though the modern neighbourhood actually measured more walkable, there is a strong preference for historic streetscapes. The main influences on rates of walking were topography and density of intersections.

Where do they go? It’s different by age; grocery, bus stops, local commercial street.

More serious consideration for seniors is needed.

Mothers of children walk more in the traditional neighbourhoods.

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