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Walk Urban: Demand, Constraints and Measurement of the Urban Pedestrian Environment

Executive Summary

Walking is nature’s mode of transport. For many people in the developing world, it is the only form of transport. The globe’s rapid urbanization, particularly in low-to-middle income countries, stimulates a high demand for low cost, sustainable urban transport. A well-designed and maintained walking network can satisfy this demand, while contributing to poverty reduction, health benefits, and saved lives. However, the complexities associated with the pedestrian environment often prevent interventions that benefit walkers.

In order to identify needed walkability improvements, an urban area must be evaluated by some standard of measurement. Since walking trips are highly variable and pedestrian activity is not conducive to measurement, this mode is often neglected. By identifying macro-level indicators that appraise the urban provision for pedestrians, municipalities can begin to implement positive changes. The following five dimensions of the walking environment and their associated indicators can help cities make a top-level survey of their pedestrian conditions.

Accessibility/Mobility Average walking trip time
Safety Pedestrian fatalities/population
Security Pedestrian - targeted crime rate; perception surveys
Legal Provision Pedestrian rights
Public Expenditure Percent of total urban infrastructure and maintenance funds spent on walking mode

While a few projects in various regions throughout the world have recently initiated pedestrian projects, there is a severe need to give more attention to the urban pedestrian environment. These indicators can assist development agencies, as well as municipal leaders, in understanding the extent of the need to address the walking mode. Further study in data collection methods for the five dimensions can make the establishment of these indicators a reality. Finally, investigating successful projects for the pedestrian environment and forging partnerships with multiple development networks can catalyze interest and effective action in the urban walking environment.