On 10 February, RATP organised a colloquium on the theme of "Urban walking and public transport: environment, abilities and public health".
Taking an interest in what appears to be the simplest form of travel, (yet one which is also a key aspect of mobility), means taking full account of landscaping, the abilities of the individual and the impact on public health.
Walking is coming back into fashion! From campaigns to encourage daily physical exercise, to sustainable mobility policies and the festivalization of public areas, pedestrians are now receiving a great deal of attention. Philippe Martin, Executive Vice-President, stressed that "passengers generally arrive in our stations on foot. And they also walk a great deal when taking connections. However, this fact has often remained overlooked". By taking care to ensure the comfort the passenger and making sure that he can find his way around easily while at the same time improving access to public transport for pedestrians we will be able to offer a real alternative to the car.
The research sector is also taking an interest in walking, because simply putting one foot in front of the other requires a great deal of cognitive and physical skill as explained by Alain Berthoz, professor at the Collège de France and joint president of the Cognition & Mobility programme. Walking can sometimes be difficult with a disability or when the person is getting old.
In France, people over the age of 60 will account for 40% of the population in 2050. The new generation of senior citizens are increasingly urban and increasingly familiar with the motor car. However, familiarity with a particular mode of transport not only affects how a person uses the mode in question, but also whether they actually leave the house each day.
Mobility is a key source of regular physical activity, and far more so than sport, (which represents 7% of our sources of physical exercise). Regular physical activity halves the risk of a large number of cancers, heart diseases and osteoporosis. Even better still, physically active people reduce their risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease by 40%. For its part, the risk of macular degeneration is slashed by 80%!
The quality of paths and routes between the stations, between the various transport methods and in the transport facilities themselves all affect the perceived quality of the journey. Colette Horel, Development and Territorial Action Manager, reminds us that in partnership with the local authorities her department takes full account of passengers and their needs, but only from door-to-door and not from station-to-station. In the opinion of Remi Feredj, manager of the Facilities and Assets department, the mobility operator must also ensure the quality of the passengers stop off point in transport facilities.
Walking is both a means of travel but also an urban experience. Jacques Lévy, professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, focused in particular on the effectiveness of walking, (i.e. its speed, when we consider the various means of access to the city's resources). On foot and via public transport, within these bouts of walking in which the walker can exist simultaneously in the physical world and in the e-space comprised of his smart phone, the sheer quantity of "realities" accessible to him is often greater than those achieved via the lone driver. A minor geographical revolution is underway, one which challenges our traditional views of speed and the "hierarchy" of available transport methods.
The motor car has compartmentalised public space. The challenge of mobility and urban planning policies today is to give people back a willingness to walk by planning our towns in favour of pedestrians and lowering traffic speeds to enable different mobility methods to coexist.
The mobility operator therefore has a responsibility when designing and managing a range of multimodal transport solutions in which walking is more than just a constraint or a chore. In Quebec, they often speak of the "transport cocktail" when referring to intermodality: the aim is to encourage everyone to increase their exposure to active mobility, (walking or cycling) as part of their own personal mobility "cocktail".
This is a completely different travel concept, one which is focused on mobile individuals, with other transport methods being viewed as an extension to walking when the distances are too great, when the pedestrian is carrying heavy bags, etc or when he suffers from temporary or permanent disabilities. The operator of this "transport cocktail" must pay particular attention to transfers and interfaces. This can be achieved by working on a daily basis along with the local authorities to design "walker friendly" urban areas, facilities and transport pricing packages.
Within this new concept of urban planning and mobility solutions, a new approach to living together is central to public policies in the fields of town planning and health.
The INSEE’s national transport survey in 2008 revealed that only 59% of French people state that they walk for more than 30 minutes a day. We are still a long way from meeting the recommendations issued by the WHO and the Ministry of Health, trumpeted in the recent INPES campaign.
54 % of French households live less than 300 m from a bus stop, while 22% of them have no car. On the other hand, 41% of households consider that the pavements and crossroads situated less than 1 km from their home are not well laid out for walking safely (source INSEE national transport survey 2008).
This is the "market share" for walking in Paris! Ahead of public transport and the car, walking is the leading travel method used by Parisians (Paris Travel Plan).
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