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