Urban Mobility from a Human Scale – Promoting and Facilitating Active Travel in Cities

Publication date: 
May 2018

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The potential of bicycle and pedestrian travel in the city has been underestimated in past decades and, as a result, there has been some deterioration of facilities and public space availability for these road users. However, in recent years the value of these transport modes has gained recognition and is being prioritised much more highly in cities’ mobility policies.

In working to improve conditions for city walking and cycling, city plan- ners and decision makers face challenges to transform infrastructure and change policies. At the same time, bicycle use in particular is developing rapidly thanks to new technology: modern bike sharing systems ensure better availability, electric bikes extend the radius of action, and more and more bicycle varieties (e.g. cargo bikes) are available to meet cyclists’ needs. Pedestrians also have better facilities and helpful aids such as smartphone apps and maps.

Facilitating and promoting these active travel modes in cities has multiple positive effects:
• Reduces the transport systems’ carbon footprint and other pollution with harmful effects on inhabitants, while also benefiting travellers’ health through physical exercise, as illustrated by the “active travel concept”, often used in the UK to emphasize the importance of these travel modes for an active and healthy lifestyle.

  • Cycling and walking infrastructure require much less city space than cars and car infrastructure (e.g. streets and parking), while also improving traffic flow efficiency. Active travel modes are well suited to city environments, where space is scarce and mobility is of great importance.
  • The economic benefits of cycling and walking are of growing interest and should not be underestimated – cyclists and pedestrians, for instance, make a substantial contribution to retail profitability, since strolling around and passing by shops increases the possibility for shopping.

  • Walking and cycling infrastructure is, to a great extent, public and accessible space that is well adapted for city residents and visitors – and therefore helps meet the need for liveable and sociable city areas.

  • Cities worldwide continue to grow at a fast rate, presenting challenges when it comes to accessibility, liveability and sustainability. The benefits of mobility on a human scale, presented above, are therefore of increasing importance. To make our cities future-proof, city planning should focus on ways of promoting cycling and walking.