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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

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