As Arup today publishes a new report looking into walkable cities and the importance of them, our CEO Joe Irvin comments.

Walkable cities. What do we mean by that? Places where people want to walk, where they can walk, unhindered. Places that are built around people, not cars. Walkable cities are good for progress and we want more of them to be created.

Arup has today (June 20) published: Cities Alive: Towards a Walking World. The built environment specialists neatly detail how walking can help shape a better world. In particular, how walkable cities can shape a better world. From social benefits, through to political, economical and environmental benefits – the report details over 50 ways the world can profit from cities being more walkable.

The report found that people are willing to walk more if they are compensated by a safe and entertaining experience. It cites that - inspired by Bogotá’s pioneering Ciclovía - cities all over the world are planning successful placemaking interventions to make the city more enjoyable. For instance, “open streets” events promote the temporary use of public space for people to play, shop, run or walk, enabling people to experience streets in a different way while building political support for further permanent improvements.


People walking in London

More and more of us are due to live in cities – in fact, the report suggests that by 2030 70% of us will. With this and the rise of devolved powers, we’ll get more say on how our cities are mapped out. For people to truly enjoy a city it must be built around our two feet rather than four wheels.

The report says the desire to have liveable streets is now rising in many corners of the world. They cite that several cities have already started to take action on this front: Hamburg, Helsinki, and Madrid have contemplated going car-free; and New York and Los Angeles have developed low-cost interventions for creating pedestrian-only streets.


We’ve long stood up for people; for the rights of those walking. If streets are built around us, rather than our vehicles, they will be suitable for everyone. We want a bright future – for our towns and cities to be free of congestion and pollution reducing the risk of preventable illness and social isolation and making walking the natural choice.

More of us walking also benefits local economies. In the last 20 years, Barcelona’s public space policy boosted its annual visitor numbers from 1.7m to 7.4m. Arup’s report also mentions pedestrianisation of the north side of Trafalgar Square brought a 300% increase in visitors.

We all have the power to tackle the world’s problems, from widespread obesity and health issues, climate change and poverty. Walkable cities are a good way to start addressing these problems. Walking keeps us physically active, it helps to increase spend in local economies and it doesn’t damage the environment.

As the report says, moving towards a moving world requires actions. We hope, as they state in their new report, that walking will be placed at the heart of all decisions about the built environment. This way more can be inspired to join the walking movement, towards a brighter future.

You can read the new Arup report: Cities Alive: Towards a Walking World here.


Susan Claris, a Living Streets trustee worked on the Cities Alive: Towards a Walking World report. She is an associate director at Arup.