Walking: a means of transport like any other?
par Elsa Sidawy | 09.29.11
Rise and walk! This literary injunction sums up the comments made by the contributors to the conference “Developing walking in cities: pedestrian mobility, health and safety,” organised by the Certu (Centre d’études sur les réseaux, les transports, l’urbanisme et les constructions publiques: Centre for the Study of Urban Planning, Transport and Public Facilities) on September 15th in Paris, right in the middle of the European Mobility Week. Excellent for health and environment, as much as for corner shops, walking gradually fits in urban transport and town-planning policies, like any other means of public transport. Rules of the street, a participative approach initiated in 2006, represents best this change. As they are symbols of sustainable and attractive cities, pedestrians are now being pampered.
“Walking is the core of mobility in the transport chain; it is everywhere,” Colette Watellier, from the DGITM (Direction générale des infrastructures, des transports et de la mer du ministère du développement durable: Directorate General for Infrastructures, Transport and the Sea of the Ministry for Sustainable Development), notices straight out. To get to their vehicles or metro stations, all daily travellers are led to walk. Yet today the increase in the number of means of transport is limiting more and more the space available to pedestrians: “the growth of multimodality results in our experiencing increasing problems of use conflicts and space conflicts,” Sonia Lavadinho, from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, remarks. This assessment is shared with Jean-Louis Hélary, director of the Certu, who adds that “in certain places, use conflicts are reaching a limit, like in train stations, where such exchange flows can cause users problems.”
Thinking differently about town and country planning
What solution is there? “The walking issue must be part of town and country planning, particularly in urban spaces that are getting smaller and smaller,” the latter continues. They are therefore making way for innovation in order to leave behind the time when cities were designed for cars. According to the town planner Anne Faure (Arch’urba agency), the challenge is to succeed in creating “walkable spaces”, that is places with qualities that make them attractive to walkers. “It cannot be imposed on people; you need to have a real project that must result from a consensus among all protagonists and use every urban communication tool, like consultation workshops and urban walks of educational value.” The functional aspect must also be taken into account in order to ensure pedestrians’ comfort: “the quality of the ground, the lighting… are essential elements.” Finally, parking must “be managed authoritatively, otherwise we will not manage to make people walk.”
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