From New Yorks cafe squares to Melbournes laneways to the walled Fes el Bali, these pedestrian paradises combine safety, beauty and consolation. Now urban planners are taking note as they seek to hand back cities to the walkers
For decades the simple act of walking was largely overlooked by city planners but , no matter how you are interested in get around your city, the opportunities are that you are a pedestrian at some point during the day.
Recently, some cities have constructed great strides: from the ambitious public squares programmes of New York and Paris to the pedestrianisation of major streets( realised in the case of Stroget in Copenhagen; proposed in the case of London’s Oxford Street and Madrid’s Gran Via.
Jeff Speck’s grandly titled General Theory of Walkability states that a journey on foot should satisfy four main conditions: be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.
In his volume Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, he argues that the “fabric” of the town- the variety of buildings, frontages and open spaces- is key.
North American, Australian and Canadian cities, which were built for vehicles, have the challenge of retrofitting strolling infrastructure.
Older European cities, which were built with walk-to in mind, have good cloth. This can induce them walkable even if they lack pavements, intersects and other infrastructure for pedestrians- as is the case in Rome, tells Speck.
” Rome, at first glance, seems horribly inhospitable to pedestrians ,” he notes.” Half the street are missing sidewalks, most intersections lack traverses, pavements are uneven and rutted, disabled ramps are largely absent .” But despite all this, as well as its mounds and famously aggressive driving, this” anarchic obstacle course is somehow a magnet for walkers “. Why? Because Rome’s fabric is superb.
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