Early on the morning of Walk to Work Day, 8 March, the Wellington branch of Living Street Aotearoa staffed a stand on Wellington waterfront and asked passers-by about walking to work. They were congratulated, offered an apple or a hot cross bun and were invited to contribute a comment about why they were walking, what they liked or found difficult about it, and if they could give suggestions about how walking could be encouraged or improved in Wellington City.
The same approach was taken in the Midland Park on Lambton Quay later on the same day. There was considerable interest from passing pedestrians in both locations and almost 150 comments were collected. These have been summarised below. Some covered more than one issue, so the proportions cited are estimates only. Verbatim quotes in italics are a selection of typical responses.
The benefits of walking
The most common response on the waterfront was that its features made walking enjoyable –views, fresh air, safety and accessibility and the chance of meeting people.
Beautiful to walk through, looking at the harbour views on the way to work.
I walk to and from work every day. It’s great. I love the fresh air.
Taking both locations together, the most popular response aspect of walking (mentioned by one in three respondents) was personal benefits - health and fitness, physical and mental wellbeing. Quite a few valued walking as a free form of exercise which provides a good start to the day.
Walking to work gives me energy to start the day.
Fitness, fresh air, seeing the world and collecting my thoughts.
Great low impact exercise that is free!
I can have a calm and peaceful time (and be) ready for work.
Problems/drawbacks with walking
One in every five commentators were aware of issues which erode the benefits and pleasures of walking. These positive aspects and safety for pedestrians can be threatened, especially by scooters and cyclists.
Scooters are a menace. Scooters are scary because they go too fast.
Cyclists are very dangerous – many are reckless and almost knock down pedestrians.
Always scary walking the waterfront because of bikes and scooters.
Views and experiences of this kind often lead to calls for the separation of transport modes.
It would be great if bikes had their own lane and e-scooters went there too, so the waterfront was free for pedestrians.
There were a variety of suggestions for encouraging and improving walking in Wellington. These ranged from providing water fountains to better policing. But many related to pedestrian crossings – more of them needed and more time given for people to cross at traffic lights. There were concerns about the condition of pedestrian tracks – making them safter and more reliable, with adequate shelter, more subway crossings of main roads and regular cutting back of vegetation.
(Make it) so pedestrians don’t have to wait so long in the wet and windy weather.
Safer footpaths in Wellington means more people will walk more and rely less on cars.
From a more general perspective, many respondents called for fewer cars in the town, with emphasis on buses and pedestrian travel.
I love walking around Wellington but would enjoy more vehicle-free zones.
Walking is THE essential mode. Everywhere should be safe and accessible.
Overall, the Walk to Work day exercise demonstrated significant support for walking and walkers in the centre of Wellington. A final quote could be useful rallying cry for LSA.
When we walk – we win! (followed by smiling faces).
Walk to Work Day, Wednesday 8th March 2023
Notes by Judith Davey