On Sunday, Vancouverites gathered at Olympic Village for Mayor Gregor Robertson’s opening reception of the 2011 Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Livable Communities.
The Walk21 conference series began with a vision: "a global culture where people choose to walk". And why is it important to support walking? Besides the obvious reasons of promoting physical health and avoiding the pollution of car traffic, it's also about creating safety and building community. Who hasn't felt afraid to walk home on a dark street at night? Promoting walking also means reducing fear of crime and increasing safety of city streets.
The Walk21 conferences take place annually around the world. This year, it took place in Vancouver — for a good reason.
Jim Walker, the chair of Walk21, said that Robertson actually asked him to take the Vancouver because the mayor wanted to make walking “the heart of the city.”Robertson told the audience that he wanted walking to be part of Vancouver's culture, tying it in with the City’s 2020 Greenest City goals.
According to the Mayor, 17 per cent of trips are taken on foot in Vancouver, making our city the best Canadian city in terms of walking.
That said, both Robertson and Walker agree both that there is much more that can be done to promote foot traffic.
“The challenge here is to make walking an everyday adventure,” said Walker.
Walker calls this commitment to walking “a marriage” between all people in the community. Helping Vancouver become more inclusive and sustainable should not be the responsibility of just one certain group, he argued. Instead, it should be a shared responsibility.
The signed Walk21 charter
This is where the International Charter for Walking comes in, said Walker. A product of Walk21, the Charter contains eight principles that experts have agreed will create a better place to live:
- Increased inclusive mobility
- Well designed and managed spaces and places for people
- Improved integration of networks
- Supportive land-use and spatial planning
- Reduced road danger
- Less crime and fear of crime
- More supportive authorities
- A culture of walking
Mayor Robertson signing the charter
“Don’t feel that you can’t sign this,” Walker reminded the audience before the signing of the Charter -- anyone can make a commitment to create a more healthy and sustainable community. A copy of the document is available online for individuals to sign.
The conference for Walk21 will take place from October 3-5 at Simon Fraser University's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts and Morris J.
Wosk Centre for Dialogue. To learn more about it, visit the Walk21 Vancouver website.