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Towards a healthy city by foot

The Journey approach

The Dutch Board of Government Advisors & Felixx Landscape Architects and Planners investigated the potential role of walking in contemporary urban environments.

Walking has great potential. It may not be the fastest, and as some may say not the most comfortable way to get around, but it is the only type of movement which doesn't require a vehicle. By walking more, we limit the influence of our movements on the environment. As a result, creating room for walking frees up space in the city, which can be used to tackle diverse social and environmental challenges. Oddly enough, the pedestrian is often forgotten in the design of our public spaces. This research by design is developed in close collaboration with urban psychologist Sander van der Ham – STIPO. It provides insight into the potential benefits of walking, and identifies the design tasks within our built environment to realize these benefits.



Walking as a choice

Walking is a choice, although we often do not make that choice very consciously. In order to create environments that encourage people to walk more, we need to understand how we can influence people’s choice to do so. The choice of walking is influenced by many factors. Everything we experience in the course of our lives is stored in our brain as information. We roughly have two methods or "systems" to interpret this information, and make choices based on it.

System 1 makes unconscious, emotional, fast, automatic, and effortless decisions. Choices are based on rules of thumb that originate from previously acquired knowledge, experiences or emotions. They undergo little to no critical reflection. System 2 is rational and requires conscious reflection and costs a lot of energy. It allows informed choices to be made, and questions the rules of thumb of system 1. To boost walking, we need to address both systems in our way of designing cities.

The Journey approach

Space for walking is often designed according to the same "mechanical" logic as that of roadways. The experience en route is secondary to reaching the destination as quickly as possible. This constantly confirms the prejudices of system 1 in our brain: you are faster by car or by bicycle.

Reconnecting society with walking, after years of applying generic rules of car environments, starts by applying human-oriented measures to our streets and public space.

  

Walkable spaces based on enhancement of comfort, proximity, and rewarding can bring humanized street designs that subconsciously tempt us to choose to walk.

Walking as agenda catalyst

By placing walking in a broader context, we can make better informed conscious decisions. By critically reflecting on our current rules of thumb and habits, walking can become a more obvious choice over time. We can achieve this by linking the act of walking to the contribution it makes to social and environmental agendas.

This makes the choice for walking more than a mere choice of mobility. It becomes a conscious choice for less air pollution and a cleaner and healthier world. By associating walking with different challenges and objectives, we create arguments that can encourage us to walk and transcend the practical consideration of going somewhere by foot. The more diverse the links, the wider the audience that will feel compelled to walk.

  


The walkable city

The 20th century was without a doubt the century of the automobile. Mass production of cars had revolutionized mobility and represented a milestone in the democratization of transport. The pursuit of speed and individual freedom has led to a spatial layout which follows the logic of the car. This legacy is still visible in our urban environment today. Cities are still largely organized to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The research proposes a method to transform an infrastructure network into a functional experiential landscape. A walkable city where the journey is as important as the destination, recognizes local streets, green-blue networks, neighborhood services and amenities, schools, urban plazas, and public transport stations as the structural elements for a walking operational journey, rather than limiting the walking realm to sidewalks parallel to car infrastructure.

In a timeframe of changing mobility, walking can act as a catalyst to realize various governmental agendas. Strategies for, for example, climate adaptation, emission reduction, safety, densification and population growth can be linked in the space that is freed up by the increase of walking. But this link also comes with a requirement in return. The experience of the city must entice residents and visitors to walk. In this city human scale is normative, physical activity is stimulated and space for social interaction is created. A walkable city shares a design brief with that of a sustainable and healthy city.



A brief story about walking

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Rotterdam as a showcase

To investigate the feasibility of the walkable city, the research takes Rotterdam as a testcase. The city is an interesting study area because of the dominant role the car has played in the design of the city. After the bombing of the city center, the "Basic Plan for the Reconstruction of Rotterdam" was developed. The devastated area was swept clean, creating the opportunity to build a completely new street pattern according to modernist principles. Living and working areas were separated, and space was created for the "traffic of the future". Four test locations were selected, to test the transformation from a car-oriented layout, to a walkable city.

Four test locations were selected based on the positions about the city center and the spatial design of the district. These are four urban prototypical compositions made in the Netherlands common, making the research relevant and applicable to other locations. We analyze the urban environment based on criteria that people use in their decision to walk: proximity, comfort, and rewarding to identify the main points for the three criteria in the area and investigate how they can be improved while keeping an eye on the specific conditions of the place. Besides it, we identify other social challenges for which walking can be a solution and we examine how walking can effectively and visibly make a positive contribution to these challenges in the area.

Case 1: Urban renewal districts - Nieuwe Westen

Case 2: Post-war neighborhoods - Ommoord

Case 3: Residential district - Hoogvliet

Case 4: Business park - Spaanse polder

Year

2019 - 2020

Location

The Netherlands

Type

Research

Client

College van Rijksadviseurs

Awards

2021 WLA Award [winner]

Publications

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Ruimte voor lopen
Architectenweb
Gooood
Mooool
Omgevingsweb
Stadszaken
UrbanNext

Team & partners

Michiel van Driessche
Marnix Vink
Deborah Lambert
Eduardo Marin Salinas
Elan Redekop van der Meulen
Cherk Ga Leung
Sander van der Ham

List
  1. Rijnvliet, Edible Neighborhood
  2. Vief Kwartier
  3. The Newton
  4. Regulateur Gruno district
  5. Eemsdelta Campus
  6. Jonas Amsterdam
  7. K64 keflavík airport area masterplan
  8. Railroad Zone Amsterdam
  9. From node to place
  10. Masterplan Flora Campus Westland
  11. Alongside the Schie
  12. New Space - Design Guideline Liveability of Public Space, Groningen
  13. From Airport to Birdport
  14. Brainport Industries Campus
  15. Hondsrug Park Amsterdam
  16. Yangmeikeng Sea Boulevard
  17. Healthy Tracks
  18. Towards a healthy city by foot
  19. Floating Gardens, Amsterdam
  20. The Unbound Amsterdam
  21. Seaside Gardens, Gufunes
  22. Brainport Smart District Helmond
  23. The Swan, Zwolle (NL)
  24. Spatial Framework Blankenburg Süden, Berlin
  25. 'Typhoon-proof' Shenzhen's East Coast
  26. Circular City Bodø 2.0
  27. A green entrance for the airport
  28. Public Space Alpen
  29. Cartesius Quarter
  30. Isle of Dikes
  31. Smakkelaarsveld Utrecht
  32. Darmstadt Masterplan 2030+
  33. Bao’An G107 Corridor
  34. Master Plan Ter Aar, Nieuwkoop
  35. Waterfront Novosibirsk
  36. City Square Tyumen
  37. Almazov National Medical Research Centre
  38. Strategic Urban Green Study
  39. Public Space Strategy Kanpur
  40. Quartierlandschaft Dietenbach
  41. ImageWharf
  42. Ódinstorg Square
  43. Overloon War Museum
  44. Lokhalle Leverkusen
  45. Ludlstrasse Munich
  46. Yaanila Country Park
  47. Redevelopment Strategy Vogabyggð
  48. Villa Garden
  49. City life in the woods
  50. Schie Quarter Schiedam
  51. Socio-technical city of the future
  52. Buji River
  53. Vaskhnil Novosibirsk
  54. Precincts Canterbury Cathedral
  55. Maritime Campus Almere
  56. Resilient Riverscape Berat
  57. Sijthoff
  58. Strategic Plan Shkodra
  59. Ekaterinburg City Campus
  60. Transformation Strategy Gufunes
  61. Transformation Strategy Chelyabinsk
  62. Fish Market Leuven
  63. Zinder Culture Cluster
  64. Food Innovation Strip Ede-Wageningen
  65. S4 Highway Hangzhou
  66. Strategic Plan Fier
  67. Strategic Plan Elbasan
  68. Kronenburg Business Park
  69. Dharavi Mumbai
  70. Masterplan Smáralind Mall
  71. Urban Test Farm Emmen
  72. Ásbrú Enterprise Park
  73. Asylum Seekers Center Ter Apel
  74. Berlin Am Volkspark
  75. The Museum of the 20th Century
  76. Gardabaer
  77. Metropolitan Westerpark Amsterdam
  78. Science and Technology City Chongqing
  79. Yue Xiu 353 Transformation
  80. 5YN3RGY
  81. Erlongshan Recreational Park
  82. Danxia Recreational Park
  83. Campus Lelystad
  84. Proto Tamansari
  85. City Gardens Tyumen
  86. Park Somerlust Amsterdam
  87. Bandar Lampung Park
  88. R&D Campus Fengxian
  89. S-West Eindhoven
  90. Biodiversity based dairy farming
  91. Heidelberg Creative Quarter
  92. Barendrecht Vrouwenpolder
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