Health professionals say the lack of walking is a major factor in poor long term health. But do planners consider the breadth and diversity of the population? Perhaps we need a broader definition of walkability in neighbourhood design.
Lisa Stafford and Claudia Baldwin discuss the issues in their paper. They say few articles on walkable neighbourhoods include people with diverse abilities across the age spectrum. We need to design equitable space – places where everyone is welcome. They recommend that studies on walkable neighbourhoods encapsulate diverse abilities and ages.
The title of the article is, Planning Walkable Neighborhoods: Are we overlooking diversity in ability and ages? It is available through Sage Journals via your institution. Or you can access for a free read through QUT e-prints.
Walkable, rollable, seatable, toiletable
We need a broader term than walkable to explain how everyone can be actively mobile in the community, says Lloyd Alter. In his blog article he adds that unless you are “young and fit and have perfect vision and aren’t pushing a stroller… many streets aren’t walkable at all…” Alter takes his point from a new book where other terms are coined:
- Rollability. Walkability isn’t enough anymore
- Strollerability, for people with kids
- Walkerability, for older people pushing walkers
- Seeability, for people with vision impairment
- Seatability – places to sit down and rest
- Toiletability – comfortable places to go to the bathroom
“All of these contribute to making a city useable for everyone. So we need a broader term for this” says Alter. His suggestions are activemobility, or activeability to cover all the ways different people get around in cities. He says he is open to suggestions for a better word.
Pedestrians First: A Walkability Tool
Cities are expected to hold seventy percent of the the world’s population by 2050. In planning terms that is very soon. Encouraging walking is talked about as if it was just a matter of persuading us to do it. However, planners and urban designers need to focus more on pedestrian needs and find out what the barriers are to getting out and about on foot and with wheels. The Institute for Transportation and Development has a new tool, Pedestrians First: Tools for a Walkable City.
Joe Chestnut, author, says, “but walkability is not just a sidewalk, it’s a whole system of design and infrastructure”. The tool aims to create a better understanding of walkability and ways to measure features. Their interpretation of walkability also includes people with disability. Best practice examples from around the world are provided. But note – an even footpath or sidewalk is still required!
What about the stairs?
Walkability is discussed as the solution to keeping people active and engaged in their community. A research study on stairs and older people concludes that the presence of stairs “may deter older persons (and others) from walking outdoors.” The study was a systematic review of the literature. The full article is available online from BMC Public Health. Or you can download the PDF. The title is “Examining the relationships between walkability and physical activity among older persons: what about stairs?” by Nancy Edwards and Joshun Dulai.