Yes we do need to start the journey to a more walkable future, for our health, the planet, the economy and just because walking is fun and social. There are some really fantastic projects internationally that we could take bits from and adapt to what we want in New Zealand - its all about what we want after all. That vision is required from the top nudged along by us. Some of the first steps have already been taken with footpath maintenance funding now available and a revised Government Policy Statement on Transport. We need to see that turned into action on our streets. Attached is a paper I presented to the 2 Walk and Cycle conference held in Palmerston North in July. It was a look at what other countries are doing to improve walking and the pedestrian space, and what we need in New Zealand to step onto this path ourselves.
Palmerston North was an interesting place to hold this conference, with my prejudices thinking there would be no one walking there! How wrong I was with a lot of people out walking, particularly noticeable away from the centre, on this basically flat topography. The footpaths that I trod were at a good standard, being wide and generally comfortable to walk on, kerb drop downs at every corner as I recall, there were trees and lots of green to enjoy too. I saw a number of people using mobility aids, and the usual walking cohorts of lovely students. But my goodness crossing those very wide roads with speeding vehicles was a challenge, and the slip lanes really should be scrapped. I wondered what the use of the space would be if all the roads were narrowed - cycle lanes everywhere of course but there would still be lots of space over. Perhaps more people living in higher density housing in the centre would be able to use more green space with seats and places to linger. Its an interesting dilemma to ponder, coming from a place where people complain about the constraints of available space.
Lucy Saunders was the keynote speaker at the conference stimulating all to appreciate the value of the Healthy Streets approach now in use in London. She talked on Radio NZ and you can access her podcast.