WALK21-XIV: Munich, Germany
The Walkable City is Dense, Urban and Green
Munich is an attractive, accessible and growing city with an exciting vision to be carbon free by 2015. Having been inspired by previous Walk21 events, The Mayor and his team are taking the impressive step of encouraging walking in all their policies and projects in order to reach their goal.
Walk21 and the City were delighted to host more than 500 delegates, at this most important time, to learn what is happening in Munich, to share ideas for the future and be part of the history they are making.
The international conference was the first in Germany and a great opportunity to reach and inspire new audiences as well as entice the familiar partnerships of health, transport and planning professionals who are working increasingly together throughout the world to deliver more liveable and successful places.
1. Viruses can be both good and bad. There are 60m more cars globally every year and this influences our mindset and impacts on an increasing number of our daily decisions. We need to be positively promoting ‘promenades’ rather than automobile-centric 'car-free' moments - learning from the infectious insights of writers like Munich's Sigi Sommer, who walked the streets to find his stories, to connect with people; understand their frustrations; and illuminate their needs.
2. Do the wrong thing. Classical formal instruments that, often with the best of intentions, provide frameworks, laws and guidance to help meet pedestrians’ needs do not always allow the most appropriate outcomes for a community if followed to the letter. Creative, informal opportunities to make small, local changes can help deliver improvements more quickly, give confidence to local communities and further influence a review of the traditional approaches. There are a growing number of examples where community activists, like Better Block, have instigated imaginative and immediate change leading to new and more flexible structures being set up to support more walkable communities.
3. Imagine your city is a book and ask what story it tells. The City of Munich invited residents to share their own story on a postcard to help write the next chapter in their City history. A strategy followed to open up a network of 'short cuts' through and between buildings; a quiet zone in the city to allow bird song to soothe patients recuperating in the central city hospital; and an investment programme in quality footway surfaces, as the defining touch-point with the community’s soles to help shape the soul of the City.
4. Zero is the only acceptable target. 270,000 people every year die globally as pedestrians in crashes with road traffic. The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention from the WHO proves that the quickest and most effective way to reduce the number of walkers dying prematurely is to get more people onto the streets, walking and making the public space their own.
5. Walking makes you younger. The average walk in Germany, like many parts of the developed world, is now down to 800m long - not much time to appreciate the rhythm and joy of walking and usually not often or intense enough to be of any physical or mental benefit. Recent genetic studies have proven that frequent and regular intervals of vigorous walking will make you look and feel ten years younger.
We learnt too that communities, particularly as their citizens get older, are looking for greater empathy and tolerance so that their needs – for seating, toilets and places to meet and talk - are available as an extension of their living space.
As inspired influencers of change, we were all invited to 'blackmail ourselves' by publishing a date and committing to an action, however small, that would make a positive effect on helping people's journeys on foot to be safer, more attractive and accessible.