Giving Walking the Va Va Voom

This was the challenge set for Living Streets Director Tom Franklin when he spoke at a conference of tranport communications professionals yesterday. He pointed that in the United States – as this picture shows – up to 80% of new developments don’t include pavements, making walking a virtual impossibility. In the UK, we need to make walking the easy, attractive, and appealing option.

In his presentation, Tom argued that the transport ‘industry’ was too focused upon increasing travel for the sake of it. In future, transport planners would need to focus more upon taming taffic and weaning people away from their cars. He also made a plea for transport communicators to embrace the ‘active travel’ agenda, made urgent by the rise in obesity.

He said, “Is it possible to exhort people to do things they might otherwise not? Well the motor industry clearly thinks so, which is why it employs footballers like Thierry Henry to give its cars the ‘va va voom’. That word has recently entered the Oxford Dictionary, meaning “The quality of being exciting, vigorous, or sexually attractive,”, yet spending too much time sitting in our cars doesn’t give much va va voom – it leads to ever-increasing congestion, a deficit of physical activity, and blighted streets. 

”The challenge for transport professionals in the future will be to find ways to reduce the need for people to travel long distances for basic necessities. This will mean promoting the benefits of walking, ensuring that new developments are designed in ways that make walking easier, and concentrating on small projects which make streets and public spaces more pleasant rather than the large-scale long-distance infrastructure projects.”

The conference, which was organised by the Waterfront Partnership, was jointly sponsored by Living Streets.

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