Pedestrian Quality Needs

Last week I attended the final conference of the COST 358 action on pedestrian quality needs in the contemporary city. COST actions are usually rather frustrating, since they do not fund actual research but only traveling and networking. Consequently they tend to remain fragmented and uneven in their quality. However, they are good tools to raise issues that are neglected or in marginal positions or scattered around in different universities and research institutions. Walking as the classical yet nowadays neglected mode of transport is a case in point: much energy and money is spent on cars and public transport, although walking is a necessary part of almost every trip we make. Politicians often pay lip service to pedestrian issues in connection with cycling and public transport, but the budgets for the development of pedestrian facilities are marginal in comparison to other investments in urban infrastructure. Why is this, although the benefits of walking are evident: it is sustainable and promotes social encounter and health, and all this with very little costs. But this may be the problem, and also the reason why urban engineering usually misses the point: walking as the cheap every man’s mode of transportation cannot offer the exclusivity that cars and high-speed transport are connected with. Since we in the developed industrial countries tend to use 10-15 % of our disposable income to travelling, using 1,1 hours in a day, it is natural that Thailand has replaced Canary Islands as our favored holiday destination. Being cheap (the “poor man’s mode”) is thus no argument for walking, rather it should be made more expensive! Luckily mobile gadgets and luxury urban services are provided for the contemporary bourgeois. But what will happen to those who cannot afford them? Beggars, street vendors and the homeless are also indispensable parts of the urban realm, although many people seem to be annoyed by this type of encounter.Pedestrian Quality Needs websiteThe elements of the public realm