A four point plan to get more New Zealanders walking

New Zealand’s first national Walking Summit inspired pedestrian advocates, disability groups, sustainability experts and politicians to propose workable solutions to get New Zealanders walking. An outcome of the Summit was this four point plan to significantly improve the position of pedestrians and walking in New Zealand.

We are delighted that our first Walking Summit has produced such practical solutions to improve walking. There are 4.5 million pedestrians in New Zealand and as the general election approaches we urge politicians of all stripes to support our proposals to get New Zealand walking more.

Living Streets Aotearoa’s four point plan:

  1. Improve safety in urban areas with a 30 km/h speed limit around schools and shopping centres  

Reducing death and injury on our roads has stalled and needs to change focus to provide liveable urban areas with no injuries from vehicles. Speed is a key, if not the key factor in all injury on our streets. Children need to be able to walk safely to school and reducing speeds is one response that will improve the ability to cross roads safely. Busy pedestrian places provide the economic benefits needed for thriving communities. Slower speeds in shopping areas allow people to more easily move from the vege shop on this side to the doctors or café on the other side of the street.

Police enforcement is only one tool in the box to improve safety. The Vision Zero approach from Sweden, where no road deaths are acceptable is an example of policy that has achieved results. Living Streets wants to see slower speeds as a step on the way to a zero tolerance of death and injury on our streets, with slower speeds in busy places mandated through the government’s Safer Journeys programme.

  1. Properly fund walking infrastructure by assigning 1% of the NLTP budget to walking

New Zealanders through the National Land Transport Programme spend a whopping $3.5 billion dollars on transport this year, mostly on new roads and road maintenance. Walking is the invisible mode in the NLTP, potentially receiving only a tiny proportion of funding for new infrastructure. The way the walk – cycle funding is currently structured with a focus on cycling in this activity class, means the only new ‘walking’ infrastructure is the unwanted-largely-by-all shared path, which provides a poor level of pedestrian service. Footpath maintenance is funded by our rates through local government and relies on each council to prioritise for this. Government dedicating 1% of NLTP funding to walking and pedestrian infrastructure will see the standard of footpaths improve and maintenance occur.

  1. Reverse the decline in kids walking to school with a national ‘safe routes to school’ programme

A generation ago, 42% of us walked to primary school – now it’s less than 30%. In 1990 primary aged children walked one and a half hours a week – now it’s down to one hour. We want to reverse this decline. We want walking to be an easy choice for the trip to school for children and their parents.

We want every child that can, walks to school. There are lots of good models to achieve this including great design, walking challenges, and rewards for meeting walking targets. School travel plans developed with local authorities can target action to the areas most needed at each school. The Ministries of Education, Transport and Health would put a focus on healthy everyday walking to boost physical activity. We welcome the decision to include the ‘journey to education’ in the next Census 2018. Good information is the first step to reverse this decline.

  1. Future proof our roading projects by making the NZ Pedestrian Planning and Design Guide the national standard for all new roading projects 

Everywhere we walk in urban New Zealand should be accessible to all people and provide a consistent environment where we can be safe. We should enjoy being out as part of the community rather than watching for that uneven footpath or seeking for a kerb drop-down. A consistent standard for footpath construction and maintenance will allow people of all abilities to move around easily.

Three important guidelines need to be used to achieve this and should all be mandatory standards. They are the NZ Pedestrian Planning and Design Guide and the RTS 14 Guidelines for facilities for blind and vision impaired pedestrians. The NZS4121:2001 Design for Access and Mobility – Buildings and associated facilities needs to be consistently followed.

We get one chance when making these big investments to make our designs great for walking and mandating use of these standards by government will help do that.

The first NZ Walking Summit successfully shared visions for a walking future, now we need to see politicians from all parties take up the challenge to get more people walking more often.