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A pedestrian perspective.

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TO HULL AND BACK, BUT NOT ON FOOT

Not a joke:

TOWN OF HULL — The town of Hull is considering restricting bike and pedestrian use on some of its roads, a measure one advocacy group says is illegal.

A town public safety committee, which examined general safety on town roads this summer, came up with a draft ordinance in September that requires biking, running or walking groups to register their travel plans with the town or bans them from using roads outright.

The ordinance is in response to what town officials say is a growing problem with road safety, but local groups are concerned about the impact on biking and running in the town.

More here.

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CONCLUSIONS FROM THE 12TH WALK 21 CONFERENCE 

From Jim Walker, the Chair of Walk 21:

Transforming the Automobile City – Walking Steps Up

Vancouver 2011

Just as automobile clubs, dealerships and manufacturers came together to create the ‘Motordom’ movement in the 1920’s, researchers, policy makers and practitioners are now firmly united to effect a global movement for encouraging more walking in our towns and cities. As the true cost of our car dependency is realised, in terms of the impact on our health, land use and personal wealth, the assumption that we need, and must rely on, our cars is being increasingly questioned.

There are lessons to be learnt from places like Vancouver which have taken positive decisions to reduce the impact of the car, increase the walkability of neighbourhoods and ensure a more sustainable balance. These are positive decisions which more and more communities are now demanding of their politicians and which need to be successful if we are indeed to ‘transform the automobile city’

Although walking, as a physical activity, is no longer ‘necessary to live’ for many people, when we reduce the amount we walk, or even give it up, the quality of our lives declines in a quick and measurable way. The health profession has asked us to play our part by being a health provider, to help reduce their burgeoning task of bandaging patients broken by the choices they have made to walk less. Our task is to give communities the people, places and purpose so that they work to support walking. The chronic stress brought on by an imbalance in these building blocks of a quality life lead to many of the world’s early deaths, and are largely avoidable, if friendly, attractive and walkable places are built and managed to support an active population.

The most vulnerable people in society have the most to gain from an investment in walkability. Studies have now proven that a package of investment in mixed use, high density communities, peppered with parks and connected by transit, sidewalks and trails is what works for a town or city of any size. For every $1 spent there are $3 in health benefits to be gained.

In an age when priorities for projects are governed by ever stricter demands for proven cost savings, economic benefits and an increase in jobs, we have sufficient evidence now to justify the redesign of our towns and cities where they have become imbalanced due to an over dependency on the car. Investment in walking can be proven to be relevant, inclusive, cheap and sustainable.Where communities have brought together visionary politicians and well-informed practitioners, they have been inspired to deliver happier and healthier people.

Experiential and incremental learning are effective ways of delivering change at a city level. By ‘aiming for Bronze’ and measuring the benefit, practitioners have confirmed that you can often end up in the longer term with ‘Gold’. But we know that ‘it is only what gets measured that gets done’, so benchmarking and using tools like the International Charter for Walking and the Make Walking Count community questionnaire are vital.

Being creative and inspirational is as important as having the right people and tools to encourage more walking. As Antoine de Saint Exupery said, ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t assemble people and assign them tasks, but rather rouse in them the longing for the endless immensity of the sea’.

We must aim to create that longing for walkability in our communities and we will know when we have done it well, as the people will assemble and ask us how they can help.

Jim Walker, Chair Walk21

October 5, 2011

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