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A Lot of Talking about Walking

From November 17 to 19, 2010 the Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities XI and the 23rd International Cooperation on Theories and Concepts in Traffic Safety (ICTCT) conference will be taking place in the City of The Hague. The conference will “showcase best practices for promoting and supporting walking and sojourning, including the recent four year European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) Action 358 project on Pedestrians’ Quality Needs.”

The conference will also showcase the final report of the ‘Working Group on Pedestrian Safety, Urban Space and Health’ of the Joint Transport Research Centre, a structure of the International Transport Forum, a strategic think tank for the transport sector. Annually, the International Transport Forum “brings together Ministers from over 50 countries, along with leading decision-makers and actors from the private sector, civil society and research, to address transport issues of strategic importance.”
Linked to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Forum’s goal is to “help shape the transport policy agenda, and ensure that it contributes to economic growth, environmental protection, social inclusion and the preservation of human life and well-being.” Canada has been a member of the Forum since 1975.
The Walk21 conference has five major themes:
1. Sustaining safe walking: Creating safe, accessible and sustainable conditions for walking and sojourning in public space.
2. Evaluating the impact of investment in walking: Defining success, benchmarking and measuring the value of money spent on walking projects.
3. Walking supporting prosperity: The relationship between where people choose to walk and the vitality of the economy.
4. Sharing space with cyclists: Managing a harmonious coexistence between cyclists and walkers, and
5. Safe, healthy, attractive and accessible environments are a community right: Creating a culture where people choose to walk and communities will thrive.
Two of the workshop speakers are from the City of Vancouver. In Transforming Streets for Vibrant Businesses, Krisztina Kassay will speak on ‘Beyond street festivals: creating successful temporary pedestrian spaces in the midst of North American car culture – the Vancouver experiment’. In Walking and culture and the culture of Walking, Sandra James will speak on ‘Advocacy, citizenry and the Olympics—the transformation of walking in Vancouver’.
There is lots of talking about the broad subject of pedestrians and roads and other road users. Given that we are all pedestrians, it hardly seems possible that it has come to this —that, as the Walk21 International Charter for Walking puts it we need a stated vision to “create a world where people decide to and are able to walk as a way to travel, to be healthy and to relax, a world where authorities, organizations and individuals have recognized the value of walking, make a commitment to healthy, efficient and sustainable communities; and worked together to overcome the physical, social and institutional barriers which often limit peoples’ option to walk.”
Walk21 is online at www.walk21.com. Canada Walks, a Walk21 inspired initiative promoting walkable communities and active transportation in Canada can be found online at www.canadawalks.com.

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