Take a walk
Cities that want healthier populations should get them moving. In the US, where urban sprawl and personal motorised vehicle are prevalent, walking makes up only 8.6% of all trips, by far the lowest proportion in our chart.
Of the OECD countries surveyed in Pedestrian Safety, Urban Space and Health, Germany and Austria rank among the highest populations whose trips are made entirely by walking, with average trips by foot exceeding 25%. However, in industrialised countries, the average length of a walking trip is quite short. For the Swiss, while 28% of trips are made by walking, 60% of them did not exceed 1 km, and only 10% exceeded 2 km. The average journey in Sweden is somewhat longer, at 2 km, with around 22% of all trips taken by foot. As for Americans, they may not walk often, but when they do, they walk further than the Swiss.
Societies that walk are healthier, see less traffic congestion, and have greater social equity and more vibrant economies–as the reports points out, the best customers are pedestrians. Policies that encourage walking facilitate liveable, more compact and sustainable cities. Indeed, urban planning should give greater weight to mobility management, and particularly to non-motorised transportation, so that cities themselves can aim for a healthier waistline.
©OECD Observer No 293 Q4 November 2012
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