The Power of Walkability: Creating Livable and Vibrant Pedestrian-Friendly Communities
A pedestrian-friendly method was one of the key components I used to finish my design for this course’s design assignment. The livability and vibrancy of towns are significantly shaped by their walkability. Creating pedestrian-friendly areas can change how we interact with and perceive our urban environments, which goes beyond sheer convenience. Communities can benefit in a variety of ways by emphasising walkability in urban planning. Pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods present an alluring picture of a more dynamic and inclusive urban future, from enhanced health and well-being to environmental sustainability and economic vibrancy.
1. Benefits of Walkability
Adopting pedestrian-friendly strategies has numerous advantages for both individuals and communities. Firstly, it encourages physical exercise and reduces sedentary behaviour, hence promoting healthier living (Marques et al., 2020). Walkable communities can provide space and opportunity for people to engage in regular exercise, which leads to greater physical fitness and general well-being. Second, pedestrian-friendly initiatives help to preserve the environment by lowering reliance on automobiles and carbon emissions (Barnett et al., 2017). Communities can minimise traffic congestion and enhance air quality by prioritising walking and cycling as modes of mobility. Adopting pedestrian-friendly techniques can also develop strong local economies by increasing foot traffic, supporting local businesses, and creating dynamic public places that promote social interaction and community solidarity (Saelens and Handy, 2008).
2.Key elements of pedestrian-friendly communities
A well-designed pedestrian-friendly community should include the following:
2.1 Pedestrian-oriented infrastructure
In a pedestrian-friendly community, the infrastructure is designed with the needs and safety of pedestrians in mind. the infrastructure has been planned with their needs and safety in mind. This includes large, well-maintained, unobstructed walkways, crosswalks, and sidewalks that are thoughtfully constructed.
Furthermore, a diverse range of street furniture plays a vital role in creating a comfortable pedestrian experience (Su et al., 2010). People can rest, socialise, and take in their environment by sitting down in designated spots along the streets. Additionally, public areas situated alongside the primary pedestrian path, such as pocket parks and city plazas (McCormack & Shiell, 2011), serve as meeting places and venues for neighbourhood events, adding to the area’s vibrancy.
fig1: Street furnitures (National Landing Streetscape Master Plan Arlington, 2020)
2.2 Mixed-use development
The integration of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces is a fundamental aspect of pedestrian-friendly communities (Witten et al., 2012). This promotes a lively and dynamic environment all day long. Residents in these neighbourhoods can easily access facilities and services and do so within a short walking distance. To ensure resident convenience and lower the demand for car travel, key facilities like community centres and kindergartens should be placed strategically within a five-minute walking radius.
2.3 Traffic calming measures
Traffic calming measures are essential to put pedestrian safety first and foster tranquilly. In order to lower vehicle speeds and improve driver awareness, this involves creating a network of side roads and interior pedestrian spaces and using strategies such as raised crossings, speed humps, and textured pavements (Inoue et al., 2010). Accessibility is further improved and sustainable mobility is promoted with a community shuttle bus service that connects the neighbourhood to public transportation hubs. These actions promote a pleasant and safe walking experience, enticing locals to use walking or other non-motorized modes of transit as their preferred mode of transportation.
By focusing on pedestrian-oriented infrastructure, mixed-use development, and traffic calming measures, a pedestrian-friendly community can be created, fostering livability, vibrancy, and a high quality of life for its residents.
3.1 Pedestrians rule Copenhagen’s shopping district
fig2. Strøget https://globaldesigningcities.org/publication/global-street-design-guide/streets/pedestrian-priority-spaces/pedestrian-only-streets/pedestrian-streets-case-study-stroget-copenhagen/
Strøget, Copenhagen’s main thoroughfare, was transformed to a pedestrian-only zone as an experiment in 1962, marking the beginning of Copenhagen’s pedestrianisation. Prior to the street’s conversion, there was a great deal of public discussion over the pioneering endeavour that was the 1.15 km long main street’s conversion to a pedestrian thoroughfare. The city centre that was almost entirely devoid of outdoor sitting, becomes a street full with outdoor cafes by removing all car lanes, curbs, and walkways from the street and adding.
Most importantly, it demonstrates how the city centre changed from being a location where retail and window shopping predominated to one with a wide range of cultural activities and opportunities. The amount of time individuals spent in the same squares and streets increased by roughly fourfold between 1968 and 1995. This was due to individuals spending more time engaging in a much wider variety of activities than previously, not to a significant increase in the number of people visiting downtown. The most significant gathering spot had evolved into the city hub.
fig3. The city delivered almost fourtimes more car-free spaces from 1968 to1996 and the result was almost four timesmore activity (Jan Gehl & Lars Gemzøe, 1996)
3.2 Super-Blocks in Barcelona
Barcelona has implemented the “super-blocks” traffic improvement plan to lessen the amount of traffic in the city core in order to reduce traffic and environmental pollution. Whereas a street block typically consists of one building block (with around 600 residents), a SuperBlock will consist of nine blocks of dwellings, with the roads inside the SuperBlocks being modified to be used exclusively by destination traffic, bicycles and pedestrians. Each SuperBlock will have an area of roughly 400×400 metres and house about 6000 people. Only destination traffic, such as SuperBlock residents, taxis, and delivery trucks travelling at a maximum speed of 10 km/h would still be permitted inside the SuperBlock. Since there won’t be any traffic inside the SuperBlocks, walkers will have much easier access to the streets.
fig4. Super-Blocks (Galychyn & Üstundağ, 2017)
People are liberated from the fear of cars and other safety hazards by limiting the speed of vehicles and substituting on-street parking with underground parking in superblocks, and are encouraged to travel on foot and enjoy the safe and comfortable walking environment of the neighbourhood “at their own pace.” For instance, since the ‘Superblock’ concept was put into place in Victoria Guest State, northwest of Barcelona, pedestrian space in the city core has expanded from 45% to 74% and traffic noise levels have decreased from 66.5 dB to 61 dB.
In conclusion, the power of walkability in creating livable and vibrant communities cannot be overstated. By prioritizing pedestrian-friendly strategies, communities can foster healthier lifestyles, promote environmental sustainability, and cultivate vibrant local economies. Embracing walkability as a core principle in urban design not only enhances the well-being of residents but also contributes to the creation of inclusive, accessible, and thriving communities for generations to come.
Barnett, D.W., Barnett, A., Nathan, A., Van Cauwenberg, J. and Cerin, E., 2017. Built environmental correlates of older adults’ total physical activity and walking: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 14(1), pp.1-24.
Galychyn, O. and Üstundağ, K., 2017. Organic urbanism: Human-oriented design for metropolises. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 37, pp.396-407.
Inoue, S., Ohya, Y., Odagiri, Y., Takamiya, T., Ishii, K., Kitabayashi, M., Suijo, K., Sallis, J.F. and Shimomitsu, T., 2010. Association between perceived neighborhood environment and walking among adults in 4 cities in Japan. Journal of epidemiology, 20(4), pp.277-286.
Marques, A., Peralta, M., Henriques-Neto, D., Frasquilho, D., Rubio Gouveira, É. and Gomez-Baya, D., 2020. Active commuting and depression symptoms in adults: A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(3), p.1041.
McCormack, G.R. and Shiell, A., 2011. In search of causality: a systematic review of the relationship between the built environment and physical activity among adults. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 8, pp.1-11.
Saelens, B.E. and Handy, S.L., 2008. Built environment correlates of walking: a review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 40(7 Suppl), p.S550.
Su, J.G., Winters, M., Nunes, M. and Brauer, M., 2010. Designing a route planner to facilitate and promote cycling in Metro Vancouver, Canada. Transportation research part A: policy and practice, 44(7), pp.495-505.
Witten, K., Blakely, T., Bagheri, N., Badland, H., Ivory, V., Pearce, J., Mavoa, S., Hinckson, E. and Schofield, G., 2012. Neighborhood built environment and transport and leisure physical activity: findings using objective exposure and outcome measures in New Zealand. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(7), pp.971-977.
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