Comprehensive pedestrian policy encourages walking

News - 31 January 2021 - Webredactie

Walking is an essential form of mobility. But also that common that governments often overlook it, while it has so many advantages. For the individual, walking is healthy, convenient, often fast, inexpensive and relatively safe. And for society, walking is clean, the most space-saving way of moving about and it results in lower health costs. It is therefore high time to pay more attention to walking policy, says Rob Methorst, who will receive his doctorate on the subject on the 3rd of February.

Underestimated mode of transport
“Walking is an underestimated mode of transport,” says Methorst, who has conducted a broad study of pedestrian policy from the municipality level to the national government. “What is striking is that the pedestrian is approached as a single unit, while the pedestrian does not exist. It is a diverse group with different needs. This is not recognised in current policy. And that is a shame because by paying more attention to it, walking becomes more attractive. For example, more than 20 percent of the population has disabilities that avoid them from walking and going outside. There is a lot to be gained here.”

Stimulating walking
According to the research, a more attractively designed public space, short walking distances, well-maintained sidewalks and squares and obstacle-free footpaths of at least 1.80 meters wide can promote walking. In outdoor areas, four times as many pedestrian accidents are related to falling than to traffic accidents.

Additionally, the domain of the pedestrian should be redefined. Some common concepts are outdated. “The pedestrian is now defined as: someone who travels from door to door on foot in traffic. That is too one-sided a view, ”says Methorst. According to the researcher, this definition should be much broader and should include all activities that pedestrians undertake in the outdoor area, including walking the dog or going for a stroll in the city park. “That gives a much more realistic picture of the actual walking behaviour. In reality, the Dutch walk much more often and longer than current statistics indicate: an estimated 40 percent more.“ 

Methorst's dissertation indicates that pedestrian policy would benefit greatly from strengthening leadership and knowledge, with a stimulating role from the national government. As would cooperation among decision-makers and designers, a better operational implementation organization and distribution of resources, this contributes to a fully-fledged policy for pedestrians. “I am convinced that you can stimulate walking by giving pedestrians the attention they deserve and responding to their needs,” concludes Methorst.


Thesis title: "Exploring the pedestrians realm"
Promotion date: 3 February 2021

More information:
Rob Methorst
mob. 06 23683444

Header photo: Brand Matters Creatives and Paulien van de Kamp