walkingA new report that analyses research and trends in city design shows how walking-friendly cities can help create healthier and wealthier cities.

‘Cities Alive: Towards a walking world’, launched by Arup shows that improved walkability has been proven to increase local retail spend, enhance the value of local services and create more jobs.

Making places better for walking can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%. In fact, pedestrians have been found to spend on average 65% more than drivers, so the economic benefits of walking for city and town centres are significant.

Similarly, companies are now choosing walkable central locations as it has been proven to increase productivity and creativity by 60%. Walking reduces the risk of stress, anxiety and depression positively helping people’s mental health and happiness. When employees are more physically active and mentally healthier, they are less likely to take time off, improving productivity.

“Some of the world’s best thinkers including Steve Jobs, Friedrich Nietzche and Barack Obama adopted ‘walking meetings’ as it helps relieve stress, foster closer relationships and increase creativity. Businesses today are seeing the benefits of these walking meetings with employees feeling more energetic, focused and engaged,” said Susan Claris, associate director for Transport Consulting at Arup.

Aamena Desai, urban designer of Integrated Urbanism at Arup, concurs with the importance of walkable cities, particularly in the African context, “Our recent research on African cities has

highlighted that walking is not just a healthier and a more environmentally friendly mode of getting around.

“For many low income residents in African cities, it remains an essential part of the daily commute, with estimates suggesting that walking makes up more than 60% of all commute trips in Sub Saharan Africa.”

According to the Walk Urban Report released by the World Bank, Africans also walk as much as four times further and longer than their global counterparts.

“Arup in South Africa, whilst working on recent mass public transit projects in Addis Ababa and Johannesburg, have been focused on convincing clients and city authorities of the need to pair investments in motorised transport systems with quality walking infrastructure – thus propelling ‘on foot’ modes from necessity into the realm of choice, by making walking more comfortable and safer,” said Desai.

With over 70% of the world’s population set to live in urban areas by 2030, ‘Cities Alive: Towards a walking world’ highlights the significant social, economic, environmental and political benefits of walking.

Informed by specialist insight and multidisciplinary expertise from across our global offices, the research highlights 50 benefits of walking explored through 16 distinct indicative themes, and lists 40 actions that city leaders can consider to inform walking policy, strategy and design. These are informed by a catalogue of 80 international case studies that will inspire action and further aid cities in identifying and evaluating opportunities.

Greg Hodkinson, Chairman, Arup Group, commented, “Our focus is on planning, designing and delivering better cities. In this rapidly urbanising world this work is increasingly important for resource use, public health and economic efficiency.”