Street Design for Walking: What about quality?

Learnings from the workshop series Stepping Stones for Better Walking Environments

Worldwide, cities aspire to carbon-neutral transport systems, and to reduced inequities of access. Enabling and encouraging walking means designing better streets and retrofitting existing street environments. The question is how, especially without consensus on what “walkable” means, who experiences barriers, and what are the specific features of the walking environments that might cause difficulties. This is a major issue when it comes to undertaking rapid action to enable and encourage walking for transport and was the motivation for bringing together experts to build knowledge on the quality of walking environments.

The workshop series Stepping Stones for Better Walking Environments (StepS) was prepared and organised by an informal working group motivated by the idea of progressing the understanding of walkability to help cities make informed decisions on improving their street environments. Three workshops focusing on the quality of walking environments were organised online in two different time zones, each examining one important dimension:

  1. Understanding the quality of walking environments: how to define it and its relationships with walking behaviours.
  2. Measuring the quality of walking environments: best practice tools and methods.
  3. Improving the quality of walking environments: best practices and motivations.

Each of the sessions delivered invaluable insights. They helped build knowledge on the importance of the quality of street environments and highlighted practical issues – for instance, the discussions did not identify a tool for assessing quality that is all at once based on diverse people’s experiences, systematic, objective, and easily scalable. Directions for further research and development were identified.

The rich material gathered was summarised in a note, accessible here. The recorded presentation showed at the Walk21 International Conference 2023 in Kigali is also available here. The team invites anyone interested to submit their views on this material and on ways to continue the discussion by filling this form. The inputs will help decide on the next steps, and contributions of those who have not been reached or haven’t been able to take part are particularly valued.

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