It’s generally agreed that walkable streets, neighbourhoods and cities are a good thing. Walkable areas produce a whole range of benefits that include:
less obesity and healthier residents;
boosting property values and the economy;
fewer traffic accidents;
reduced CO2 emissions;
and maybe even more people walking!
But perhaps a harder question is: How do we know if a street or area is walkable?
Is it just about how many different destinations are within walking distance of any particular spot? While that’s a really important factor, its obviously not the only one.
Walking is the simplest, cheapest and easiest way of getting around. In many big congested cities, its also the quickest way to move. However the simplicity of walking can sometimes make it difficult to ‘sell’ as a concept to government, business and the general public.
You see the problem is, that walking doesn’t really require any extra technology or equipment. ‘But where’s the problem in that?’ I hear you say. For many of us, that’s exactly why we like walking and the idea of walkable cities. However in our gadget-obsessed world, this lack of ‘hardware’ is often a problem. Perhaps the most worrying part of this is that politicians seem to be the most technology-obsessed of everyone, yet they hold most of the funding for walkability.
If you think about your favourite streets, the ones where you like to hang out and meet up with friends: the chances are that these types of street are walkable. Well it turns out that walkable streets are not only fun and exciting places to be, they are also incredibly profitable.
Research commissioned by the TfL Urban Design team has found that making a street more walkable can add up to £30,000 to the average property price in that street. In one case study, they found that over £9.5million had been added to local property prices by improving a street with:
new wayfindings signs.
A healthy city is a walking city. Western cities in Britain and the US are haemorrhaging cash because of a lack of physical activity. Our automated lives have led to an obesity crisis which is costing us billions of pounds a year in health care costs. For instance the estimated cost of physical inactivity and obesity in England is over £10 billion a year (that’s 10% of the entire NHS budget!).
Walking can and should be cool. If you don’t agree, then argue with the Cool Kids, who once said “If I catwalk this sidewalk, I can fly this”. If that lyric means anything, and I’m not sure if it does, it means that walking is the coolest form of transport.
But part of making walking more fashionable, is about creating street environments where we feel cool.