Made for walking

Made for walking
©University of Salford Press Office (CC BY 2.0)

Pan European Networks investigates some of the roles cities play in promoting initiatives for pedestrians. 

With transport accountable for almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, it has become a dominant cause of air pollution in cities. In 2014, the European Commission reported that road transport accounted for more than 70% of all GHG emissions within transport, adding that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions from transport ‘will need to be at least 60% lower than in 1990 and be firmly on the path towards zero’. As a result, it is the responsibility of cities and local authorities to deliver these objectives. Pan European Networks takes a look at some of the roles played by a selection of Europe’s cities in promoting initiatives for pedestrians, as a means of improving city mobility, and helping to keep pollution levels to a minimum.

Walk away

In December 2017, an EU-funded active transport policy handbook was published which showcases those setting an example of best practice in implementing active transport across Europe, and places where walking and cycling have been a success. The Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches (PASTA) was authored by Florinda Boschetti, providing contributions from around Europe, including The Healthy Streets Approach and Walking Cities programmes based in London, UK. It defines active mobility measures as: ‘An action which is undertaken in order to increase the level of active mobility, i.e. walking, cycling, and the use of public transport, in a city.’

There are several initiatives, and strategies, which are taking place across Europe’s cities in efforts to improve the health, safety and congestion of these areas. Lyon, for example, the third largest city in France, has launched its own walking bus scheme, Pédibus, an initiative which promotes walking children to school. The scheme is operational in 37 communities and 73 schools, spanning 142 routes daily and involving in excess of 2,000 children per day, according to Soot Free Cities.

As one of the most populated urban areas in Finland, a research and development plan was launched in Helsinki in 2014 to investigate the ways in which walking could be encouraged across the capital. To re-assess the landscape of the issue, a further paper is planned which will look at expanding the pedestrian network in the city centre, with focus on extreme weather conditions and the impact that this may have.

In Brussels, Belgium, walking is being promoted through the expansion of pedestrian zones – in 2016 this stood at 10km, by 2020 this will increase to 20km, and a further 20km will be implemented by 2040. Alongside this initiative, civic authorities in the Belgian capital aim to increase the number of pupils who live less than a kilometre from their schools, and to raise the number who walk to school from 70% in 2016 to 80% by 2020.

Funding the future

In October it was announced that five cycling and walking projects, across four Scottish cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Sterling – were to receive £22m (~€24.9m) in funding from Transport Scotland. The projects are set to be developed in the near future – with completion being placed between 2020 and 2022 – and will oversee the development of a cycling-friendly neighbourhood in Glasgow. It will also see the expansion of cycling and walking routes throughout Edinburgh and Inverness, as well as improvements to both the environment and streetscape on stretches of road in Sterling.

The award was also given in conjunction with Sustran Scotland’s Community Links PLUS design competition. As reported in the European Local Transport Information Service (ELTIS), the Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Through the award, people will be able to enjoy new active travel routes and, whether it is for commuting or leisure, more people across Scotland will be able to enjoy the benefits of greener and healthier modes of transport. To achieve this vision, we are doubling investment in active travel, from £40m to £80m each year.”

The decarbonisation campaign

An innovative campaign was launched by the city council in Terrassa, Spain, which aims to enhance the walkability of the city. ‘Step by step’ is one of a number of measures developed to encourage the shift towards active travel as part of the city’s Urban Mobility Plan for 2016-2020, which was recently approved in June 2017.

In a 2014 survey carried out during the development phase of Terrassa’s Urban Mobility Plan, it was highlighted that 60% of trips made within the city were on foot. Thereby, a key feature of the new campaign was developed into a map which makes citizens and tourists aware of the routes available within the city, showing the distance between 32 key points and the average time in which these can be walked (based upon an average walking speed of 4.5km/h).

Based on the Metrominuto concept, pioneered by the city of Pontevedrea, Spain, public transport stops and important locations in the local area are marked on the map. The idea was similarly adopted by Toulouse and Paris, France, and Cordoba and Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.

Across Europe, cities are united in their responses to the combined challenges of pollution, urban mobility and health. As the cleanest and most efficient forms of urban mobility, walking and cycling are seeing a renaissance in efforts to decarbonise. Not only are they providing environmental benefits through reductions in congestion, and air and noise pollution, they help to improve the health of those who make a change to their means of transportation.


This article will appear in Pan European Networks: Government 24, which will be published in January, 2018.


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