Cities around the globe are encouraging more foot traffic

People have become more individually and environmentally health conscious, cities are shifting their focus to promoting walking

A major shift is taking place throughout major cities around the globe. Traditionally, cities were designed in a way that would best accommodate the flow of vehicles, but in a few major metropolitan areas, that is no longer the case. There is now a renewed focus on designing cities in a way that promote walking—not only for a healthy lifestyle, but for a healthy planet. According to a report by design firm Arup, if half of all short, private vehicle trips were converted to walking, it would result in approximately 2.4 million less trips per week in an average city. If this were to become the norm across all major cities in the world, the results would positively impact the environment and result in a much healthier place to live.

An increased focus on promoting walkability also has benefits on the commercial real estate industry. According to American urbanist Christopher Leinberger’s studies of metropolitan markets in the United States, areas that are walker friendly are highly desirable. As a result, landlords are reaping the benefits, as the average rent for office space, retail space and private housing are significantly higher in walkable postcodes. Research also showed that office and retail space in areas with a walking score of 80 (out of 100) is worth, on average, 54% more per square foot than areas with walking scores of 20. And the landlords are not the only ones who are benefiting from the increase in walking—as a consumer, these areas have shown to have lower public transportation costs and better job access than areas that do not have strong walkability.

New York City in particular is putting emphasis on increasing walkability. In Times Square, street space is being turned into seat space as part of  an urban program that includes pedestrianizing part of the area. Because of rising traffic accidents in Times Square, The New York City Department of Transportation closed off part of Broadway to vehicles and created temporary pedestrian-only spaces. This program was so successful that the city decided to make it permanent, and the results have been tremendous. Pedestrian injuries have reduced by 40% in the area and vehicular accidents have dropped 15% as a result of the project. It has also made an impact economically, creating a higher volume of foot traffic in the area, leading to more retail business.

Organizing cities around people, not cars, is commercially and economically constructive. Along with benefits to health, communities and environment, there is a strong case for orienting our metropolitan areas around walking. Although some cities still prefer machine travel, cities that prioritize walking are promoting thriving communities.