Walking: A Universal, but not Equal Experience

Two people playing ping pong under an elevated highway

Your income and your ethnicity shouldn’t determine your chances of survival when you cross the street. That’s the message that Charles Brown, senior researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) and professor at Rutgers University, delivered at Walk21, an international gathering of citizens, professionals, academics, and leaders that took place in Calgary in September to explore emerging ideas in walkable city-building.

Charles’ research analyzed regional patterns of pedestrian safety data for disparities. He mapped pedestrian crash data alongside factors including income, race, ethnicity, and gender. The data revealed that New Jersey neighbourhoods that experience social and economic marginalization are at a higher risk for pedestrian injuries and fatalities. His webinar series, called Walking Towards Justice, explores these issues.

TCAT’s Car Martin (Participatory Design Consultant) and Tessa Nasca (Community Coordinator) attended the conference as part of the Active Neighbourhoods Canada (ANC) project, which over the past four years has been addressing equity and walkability in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta through participatory community design. The ANC project works with residents of low income and socially marginalized neighbourhoods whose input is often absent from planning processes. The project connects these neighbourhoods with planning and design professionals and decision-makers to elevate community voices and develop public spaces that reflect residents’ desires. Car, along with Brianna Salmon, the Executive Director of Peterborough’s GreenUP, spoke about the importance of intersectoral partnerships for achieving this vision, and also visited some of the Calgary neighbourhoods involved in the project.

Why focus on walking? Shin-pei Tsay, Executive Director of the Gehl Institute, shared that the human sensory experience is enhanced at walking speed. Building to this scale improves safety, comfort, and beauty for all public space users, and makes life at 5 km/hr a good one.

Posted On: October 4, 2017