Designing Walkable Cities

“Walking is the first thing an infant wants to do and the last thing an old person wants to give up”

John Butcher, Founder of Walk21

A 3-year research project between COWI, ARKITEMA and Roskilde University, funded generously by the COWIfonden

Purpose of our project

The future challenge is not only a question of more walking but also one of designing better walking experiences and regulating pedestrian flows to “design out” problems of overcrowding and “dead places”.

Inspired by the concept of mobility, our project of Designing Walkable Cities aims to help cities address these challenges by developing a Living Lab in different cities. The task is not only the frequency and amount of walking but also the perceived qualities of walking for different groups and the overall liveability of a city.

Current Updates

Due to the COVID-pandemic the project is prolonged to approximately summer 2023. The case of London has also been postponed due to the pandemic.

Preliminary data in Copenhagen has been gathered on Istedgade and at its intersection with Enghave Plads. This area was selected because Istedgade is situated in central Copenhagen and is heavily trafficked by cars, bicycles and pedestrians who are both visitors and locals going to the street’s many shops and cafes, among other things.

There is also local bicycle and foot traffic to schools and childcare centres in this district. Finally, Enghave Plads offers the possibility to stop and rest, and it has a relatively new metro station. Copenhagen Municipality has worked on improvements to Istedgade and hopes to continue this work and to find out how the accessibility works for the new metro station.

Walking is analysed through an interdisciplinary approach, where both synergistic quantitative and qualitative methods are used. The first analyses were carried out in Copenhagen employing the interdisciplinary approach. The exciting interdisciplinary results include knowledge on the interaction between pedestrians and cyclists on Enghave Plads. The qualitative observations showed no signs of conflicts, and none of those interviewed expressed having experienced any insecurity or other problems with cyclists crossing the square. This is despite the fact that video recordings showed a considerable number of them. Smart video processing showed a probable cause: namely that cyclists on the square moved at a pedestrian pace or rode slowly, while those in the bicycle lane at the edge of the square rode at a normal bicycling speed.

•    •    •

Walking is a hot topic in discussions about urban mobility, urbanization and UN’s sustainable goals while cities are beginning to invest heavily in walking.

London has announced its first Walking Action Plan in order to “become the world’s most walkable city” and create an extra million walking trips a day.

Copenhagen is focusing heavily on walking as a mode of transport in their upcoming Mobility Plan 2025.

“Walking for life”, The Norwegian Walking Strategy was launched by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in 2012. Several Norwegian cities have conducted local walking strategies. COWI DK and NO have recently worked on a strategy in order to promote walking as a mode of transport and everyday activity for the municipality of Oslo.

COWI DK has done research and tested prototypes of design elements in relation to tourists and walking in Venice to help the municipality cope with 100.000 visitors a day.