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How Do the World’s Cities Stack Up on Walkability?

11:08 AM EDT on August 28, 2013

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What makes a great walking city? Wide sidewalks with lots of street life? Low volumes of traffic? Lively pedestrian plazas? Hop-on, hop-off transit?

A group called Walk21 has developed a standardized way to assess the walkability of cities, based on factors like how much people walk and how much transport funding is devoted to pedestrian projects. The organization is starting to measure cities based on these criteria.

This Big City reports that, according to Walk21, obstacles to walking persist even in cities known for the quality of their pedestrian environments:

So far the project has benchmarked London, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Canberra and also audited New York and Stuttgart. Benchmarking results show that Copenhagen was the city where people spent the most time walking everyday (52 minutes a day), closely followed by Barcelona with 48 minutes a day, London with 33 minutes and Canberra with 26 minutes walked per day.

The main reason that people didn’t walk in most of the cities was because of’ ‘too much traffic.’ Unsurprisingly in Copenhagen, people didn’t walk because they preferred to cycle and in London just under 40% of people didn’t walk because of fear or crime. Other reasons included cleanliness of streets (21%), lack of amenities within walking distance (20%) and poor quality pavements (19%). In Canberra over 40% of people don’t walk because of poor street lighting and in Barcelona narrow pavements are a barrier to over 35% of people. Survey respondents in all of the cities suggested that more people would walk if the cities had better street lighting, less traffic and more crossing points.

Walk21 has established the International Charter on Walking to help cities improve their pedestrian policies. It's been signed by more than 4,000 governments, organizations, and individuals, according to This Big City.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Reconnecting America explores the connection between childcare locations and parents' transportation choices. Urban Milwaukee reports that the city's car-sharing services are expanding, thanks to the growth of central-city neighborhoods. And the Political Environment says six elected officials in Wisconsin have signed the Koch Brothers' pledge to take no action on climate change. Lovely!

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