The Sidewalk Challenge

Sidewalks are the urban infrastructure that most meet the needs of pedestrians, facilitating walking, socialising and doing business.Yet, in too many cities they either don’t exist at all or are inadequate, fragmented or neglected.

Walk21 launched the Global Sidewalk Challenge in 2017 at COP22 in Berlin inviting a collaboration and investment in walking infrastructure, especially dedicated, safe and barrier free sidewalks at transport hubs, to benefit the people who walk most by focusing on the places most walked in order to reduce GHG emissions, improve the efficiency of public transport and deliver better public health.

The Side Walk Challenge initiative is being coordinated by Walk21 with the Partnership on Sustainable Low Carbon Transport and currently receives support from seven NGOs, 12 business companies, and four universities.

Sidewalks underpin the vibrancy of the 500m / 10 minute area within walking catchment for public transport stops and stations and other popular walking trip attractors such as retail areas, hospitals, schools, parks, leisure centres and areas of high employment. 

The absence or presence of a consistent, quality and unobstructed sidewalk network, with safe road crossing points within these areas, gives the most basic indication of whether a destination is walkable.  Engaging local communities to identify needs and opportunities for sidewalks and targeting these places by investing in sidewalks, as a minimum, ensures walking is the mode of choice, a viable alternative to short car trips and returns the maximum benefits to safety, inclusion and happiness. 

Research suggests that targeting investment in sidewalks for transit stops in particular, that have the highest number of riders, the best network connectivity scores and the lowest levels of sidewalk availability and quality, gives the highest return. (Based on the California study that proved sidewalk quality, availability and street network connectedness are critical access factors in walking to transit.  (Woldeamanuel and Kent, Measuring Walk Access to Transit in Terms of Sidewalk Availability, Quality, and Connectivity 2015))

Cities and local administrations, supported through existing city and regional networks; National and regional entities with either funding, policy or build responsibility for transport infrastructure; and private landowners, property developers and facility operators, such as hospitals, sport stadiums, universities, housing developments and public transport providers who require access to their facilities – are all encouraged to take responsibility for their part in building or rehabilitating a dedicated, safe and barrier free sidewalk network in cities across the globe.

The 100,000 km target for new or rehabilitated sidewalks by 2030 seeks to put the spotlight on and catalyse action around the globe by consolidating the efforts of partner cities, organisations and businesses into a high profile campaign that aims to:

  • Establish walking as an essential element of resilient climate friendly cities
  • Raise international expectations and aspirations for more walkable cities
  • Provide leadership and highlight the value of walking
  • Showcase best practice and successful case studies and grow capacity for delivery
  • Scale up action and support for more sidewalks being built or rehabilitated where they are most needed.