When it comes to walking in the city, a smartphone is now almost as important as a good pair of shoes.  Our phones provide us with pedestrian sat-nav, reviews of the best places to visit and even measure how many calories we’re burning, while we walk.  In fact recent research suggests that our phones are encouraging us to walk further in the city and explore more places.

Now a new mobile app from Walkonomics provides an essential tool for the walkable lifestyle.  The Walkonomics app enables people to check the walkability of the street they’re standing in, as well as discover new walkable streets in other areas and add their own reviews.  The free app, which is available for Android devices, uses over 600,000 street ratings from Walkonomics.com, covering every street in San Francisco, New York and England.  But unlike other walkability apps, which only measure how many destinations are within walking distance, the Walkonomics app provides 5-star ratings for 8 different categories of pedestrian-friendliness:

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For most of us, when we’re walking in the city, the safest place to be is on the pavement or sidewalk. However a new movement in urban street design, called ‘Shared Space’, is challenging this kind of thinking.  Shared Space streets aim to reduce the dominance of cars by getting people and vehicles to share the road space.  Controversially, this sometimes includes removing kerbs so that there is no physical demarcation between the pavement and the rest of the street.  

Surprisingly, this risky strategy has arguably made streets safer for pedestrians, with less accidents and slower vehicle speeds.  Now the UK government has released official guidance on Shared Space, which not only shows the benefits and problems of the idea, but also attempts to provide advice on how to create high quality Shared Space streets.

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If you’ve ever been in an East African city during rush hour, then you’ll know that African cities are walking cities. In the rapidly urbanising capitals of Africa, walking is by far and away the most popular form of transport. For instance over 60% of trips in Addis Ababa are made on foot, while just 9% of trips are made in a car and in Nairobi over 45% of people walk. These are the kind of walking statistics that developed cities can only dream of: London struggles to get 20% of people to walk and in New York its between 10-20%.

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There’s been plenty of research into how walkable streets and neighbourhoods get more people walking. However what we’re less sure about is: Who are the people that choose to walk more?

In an attempt to answer this question, Transport for London have released new research with some interesting findings.  By combining a large travel survey with Londoners demographic data, the study attempted to identify which types of people walk more as part of their everyday lifestyle.

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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!).

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