Walk21-XI: The Hague, The Netherlands
Getting communities back on their feet
16 - 19 November 2010
The conference was hosted by The Government of The Netherlands and the municipality of The Hague. It was also an unique partnership with the ICTCT and OECD, concluding the work of the PQN, Pedestrian Quality Needs project and presenting findings from a number of other projects.
Through a range of pre and post conference activities as well as walkshops and meetings throughout the conference itself, professionals from around the world shared, debated and celebrated a rich vein of research, project implementation and innovation.
The 11th International Walk21 conference revealed a new impetus for an understanding of the importance of walking to our individual and collective health, producing a rich and vibrant programme that broadened the spectrum of issues discussed and engaged a new generation of researchers, practitioners and advocates.
There is mounting evidence from research and experience demonstrating that communities, where priority is given to pedestrians, are not just imaginable and possible but beneficial to the trends reflected in our changing society, management of space and use of energy.
Importantly these trends show:
Society is ageing in absolute and relative terms with people generally becoming less fit and healthy and more frail and vulnerable.
Central areas in our towns and cities are typically being renewed with good walking & sojourning conditions in urban centres. However, the sprawl of peri-urban single family homes and multi-car households is creating dismal walking conditions in our town peripheries.
Good quality public spaces are becoming recognised as economic assets for tourism, businesses and investors who are discovering pedestrians are the most viable and attractive potential consumers.
Despite much attention on ‘technological solutions’, walking is a cheap, tangible and important function of our towns and cities that can be part of the solutions to address rising energy prices, to reduce noise and pollution and increase safety and mobility.
Communities, their politicians and practitioners should work together to:
Collect comprehensive and good quality data, both quantitative and qualitative, based on the characteristics, needs, abilities and longings of pedestrians.
Prepare for a changing society – for more elderly people – both active and frail; and to satisfy the increasing demand for a healthy lifestyle.
Create inclusive public spaces in both city centres and suburban areas, recognising the value of and supporting sojourning as well as walking.
Investigate and develop multi-modal engineering options such as Shared Space, to maximise the available space, enhance safety and amenity and support walking
Recognise that change can happen within a community by committing to a vision and implementing step-by-step rather than investing in just one project
Anticipate the impact of increasing energy prices and climate change by making provision for more walking over longer distances and better multi modal connectivity with public transport.
This can be done by:
Refocusing existing policies to area wide, whole network approaches focused on local transport and sojourning, creating conditions for inclusive public life, participation, housing, and a balance between mobility and access, link and place, integration and segregation.
Creating new policies that put pedestrians at the centre of a vision, thinking beyond the myths and traditional ideological arguments that suggest you shouldn’t, to create a positive awareness and recognition of walking in the development of institutional frameworks.
If all that sounds too strategic at the very least remember to:
Beg, borrow or steal good ideas from each other, that have already proven to work – there’s an increasing amount out there;
Always be ready to recount a 2 minute vision for your community at any time and be prepared to stick to it for the next 30 years and you will be able to transform any place of any size;
Learn enough about health and transport to find the common agenda - road deaths and physical inactivity deaths are inequitable, expensive and avoidable if the needs of people walking were recognized and met.
Measure walking and value happiness – it’s a universal currency.