Walk21-X: New York, USA
More footprints less carbon
6 - 9 October, 2009
The conference set new records for attendance at Walk21 with nearly 700 delegates over the four days, with people from all continents of the globe and all professional walks of life.
The scale of avoidable chronic stress caused by failing everyday environments; premature deaths caused by diseases associated with inactivity; and preventable injuries caused by vehicle crashes is now known to be not only huge, but widening social inequality and on the rise. As the global evidence of the pandemic grows, politicians are under pressure to take responsibility and we should be ready to share our knowledge to save lives.
As demonstrated by New York in the 1970ʻs people will vote with their feet and leave communities where administrations stop paying attention to the basics of community
life. A safe, pleasant and connected community needs investment and commitment to stay economically and socially viable and the community needs to be involved and engaged if the vision is to be sustained beyond a political term.
The Make Walking Count: World Cities Project - which aims to share and compare information from local benchmarking of peopleʼs motivations to walk, their perceptions, barriers to more walking and what triggers would encourage them to walk more - will, for the first time, help steer the evolution of tailored policies and programmes that are much more likely to effect change.
A city plan which recognises and encourages walking is an important stage in changing the culture of a communities administration and provides a practical opportunity for politicians and technical experts to discuss and agree a common deliverable agenda.
New York Cityʼs ambitious vision to be the safest city on earth; to promote the Department for Transport as looking after the needs of people (not their vehicles) and decision to invest in the public realm so that people can stay and enjoy the spaces they create (not just move people through them) - is an inspirational approach for other communities who want to choose a more sustainable city.
There is an increasing collection of innovative ways which have been proven to help turnaround a community and visibly demonstrate a commitment to a liveable place. Narrowing streets and widening sidewalks; shortening crossings and lengthening crossing times; lowering speeds around schools; increasing the comfort for seniors in the design of streets; and regular street opening programmes are all examples of the basic tools.
A public plaza programme which aims to transform iconic places by reclaiming space from moving and parked cars and returns it to local communities can be quick to implement, a visible indicator of progress; and make a real difference to peopleʼs perceptions and value of their local environments. New York are congratulated for being bold enough to change Broadway - one of the most iconic traffic filed streets in the world - making decision makers across the world ask ʻif New York can do it why canʼt we?
The increasing interest in walking issues from what Mexico CIty describe themselves as ʻemerging placesʼ creates an opportunity for new partnerships to learn from each other. It is with great pride that Walk21, in this its 10th year, is supported by more delegates than ever from every continent and more than 40 countries. We must continue to learn from each other, share the processes and tools which are successful and collectively respond to the needs of people on foot to keep building the DNA of liveable communities.