Walking can be Fast, Easy, and Personal
Nowadays the lifestyle of global citizen is characterized by their need and demand of transportation modes that could accommodate their day-to-day commuting activities in the fastest, easiest, and most personal way. Fast means that it could take people to their destination within the shortest time. Easy means that it would offer the most comfort feeling to the people when using/doing it and also be easily accessed or owned. Personal means that the transport modes could be taken independently by each individual.
Image 1. Combined with well designed facilities for walking and urban public transit with good service and connection, walking can be fast, easy, and personal. Example from Yahata station, Kitakyushu, Japan.
Driven by technology development and industrialization, these three preferences above were easily met by the motorized vehicles such as car and motorcycle. The advancement of the automobiles has changed the civilization in a very massive way. Unfortunately this advancement also came with a devastating negative impact. Urban transport, generated by the motorized vehicle, is single-handedly responsible for emitting approximately around one fourth of global carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The increase of travel demand due to economic development and urban sprawl leads to environmental degradation. The reason is that this increase generated the increase of car or other motorized vehicles usage since the alternative transportation modes such as public transportation and non-motorized transportation modes are not yet well developed globally. At the end each vehicle emits significant volumes of air pollutants and CO2 (Matsumoto, 2005).
Fuel combustion in the transport sector is a major cause of carbon dioxide emission. Ever increasing numbers of vehicles account for 24% of escalating emissions, half of which are generated in urban transport (Schipper, 2010). This phenomenon could be reflected from the fact that he average Americans spent 19.3% of their family income on transportation expenses. And from this percentage, 94.8% was used for the possession and maintenance of private cars. Average Japanese spent lesser on transportation but still they spent 71.3 % on private transportation (WBCSD, 2004).
In the mean time, people in all over the world mostly had abandoned walking. Journeys taken by walking had fallen by 10% from 34% to around 24% during 1976 – 2010 in Germany and continued to decrease by small percentage afterward. A higher decrease from 46% to 22% was occurred in the United Kingdom during 1975/76 – 2012 while in Denmark it decreased by 5% during 1975 – 2008 (Hass-Klau, 2015). Furthermore numbers of journeys by other low carbon mobility choice such as cycling in such countries were not increased significantly to balance the trend.
However ideally walking and cycling are the important elements in the concept of low carbon city, as they can easily reduce the current level of carbon emission when replacing or complementing the other transport modes. They are the key-elements in short distance trips and also longer trips if they were combined well with a reliable public transportation (Midgley, 2011). Both walking and cycling are considered as low (or even zero) carbon mobility as they don’t emit Carbon dioxide directly.
Also both of them involve physical activity thus they can improve health condition of the practitioners. When conducting walking or cycling apparently social interaction is also occurred more than when driving a car or motorbike. This is also another advantage in creating a humanized city. Cities with pedestrian and cyclist are without doubt more lively and livable compared to motorized cities (Nuzir, 2016).
A well-known urban planner, Jan Gehl, suggested these factors to be addressed in order to create walk-ability such as: a continuous and complete pedestrian network; reliable feeling of safety that means protection from motorized traffic; security through collective surveillance and activity, especially in darkness; direct pedestrian routes with sufficient space – wide sidewalks – and no obstacles; stimulating and detailed facades, services and facilities facing the pedestrian streets; comfort, such as low noise, good air quality, cleanliness and weather protection; pedestrian facilities, like clean drinking fountains and toilets; green spaces, flower beds, trees, etc.; seating: formal, informal, and commercial seating; features that invite leisure activities and play; and art that generates identity with the town (and region) (Hass-Klau, 2015).
Reflecting to the current preferences of urban transport service which is fast, easy, and personal, walking as a transport mode has been under rated. Within certain setting such as compact spatial planning and well connected network of public transportation, walking could avoid traffic jams and arrive at destinations faster than motorized transport modes. With a good urban design and walk-able infrastructures, the pedestrian could enjoy ease and meaningful walking experience without any physical barriers.
And above all transport modes, walking is the most personal mean of transport since basically it relates and depends to the individual ability. Therefore I would assume that under the appropriate urban setting, walking is the future of low carbon urban mobility and one of the main solutions for global climate change. Yet how to understand and to generate this appropriate urban setting remains a big question mark for urban planners and researchers.