New Zealander’s aren’t walking enough and the design of our cities is largely to blame. That’s the outcome of a huge, international study on physical activity. Newshub reports:

A new study has been released showing New Zealand is one of the world’s laziest countries – and Kiwi women walk significantly less than men.

The Activity Inequality Project by Stanford University charted the average daily steps of countries worldwide by tracking the data from an app on participant’s cellphones, Asumio Argus.

New Zealand is 35th out of 46 countries for laziness, with the average Kiwi walking just 4582 steps daily. Even people from countries such as the United States, often thought of as the unhealthiest country in the world, walk more than New Zealand does.

Americans take 4774 daily steps according to the study, Canadians take 4819, Australians take 4941 and the Brits take 5444. Hong Kong topped the daily step count with 6880.

However, numbers of steps taken is also not the most important factor in predicting a country’s obesity rate. The study suggests the most influential factor is something called ‘activity inequality’. This is the difference between the fittest and the laziest people in a country.

New Zealand again has significant rates of activity inequality. We are in the top six, only beaten by the US, Egypt, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Here’s the map based off the data they’ve compiled.

Personally I don’t think we’re lazier than other countries, it’s more that we’ve actively designed our cities as places that make walking for many journeys not practical and/or not enjoyable, something backed up by the study.

One way to decrease a country’s activity inequality is to get more women walking. And the key to that, the study suggests, is to make cities more walkable. Research from a cross section of American cities found that when a city is made more walkable, women under 50 are the most likely group to increase their steps.

This is a graph from their website showing the active inequality compared to the walkablity of cities.

As I said, New Zealand cities often treat pedestrians very poorly. Those on foot are often faced with hostile environments including long wait times at intersections, low levels of priority – like when crossing side streets, poor amenity – such as being right next to fast flowing traffic, and are often with general disdain from drivers – and transport agencies.

One classic example is absurd signs like below where on a back street, on the main access way between a major centre and a park, playground and beach, the flow of vehicles was considered more important. Luckily this particularly crossing is being/has been changed but there are many other examples of signs like this all-around Auckland and New Zealand.

Of course, it’s not just how we’ve designed our streets but also how we’ve designed our cities. For many our spread-out suburbs have resulted in walking simply not being a viable option even if they wanted to walk.

Making our cities more walkable (and bikeable), both from a transport and land use perspective, would help make us healthier. And by potentially taking a lot of local trips off roads it also helps to address many of our transport problems.

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90 comments

  1. I’m not convinced there is much of a correlation. Certainly not compared to obesity and food consumption. And obesity is of more concern to women over 50 not the under 50’s you will have striding up and down Queen st.
    Having been negative there is certainly plenty of sense in what you are writing and making the city feel safer is a win win option for young and old, men and women.

    1. Bob do you habe data to support your statement that “obesity is of more concern to women over 50”? So I did some googling and found this: http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/health/obesity.html

      Quote: “In 2013/2014, similar proportions of male and female adults were obese (29.1 percent of females and 28.3 of males). Between 2006/2007 and 2013/2014, there was a 3.3 percentage point increase in obesity rates for males and a 2.8 percentage point increase for females.”

      Conclusion: What you said appears to be a load of poppycock.

      Request: Please fact check your own facts, especially when you’re making comparisons betwee groups of people. Of course there are meaningful differences across some observedable dimensions, but it needs to be supported by data.

      1. Stu I was not trying to say obesity is unimportant. Neither is having a city we can walk in. But my judgement is the two issues are barely related although yes they are related.

        I went to the link and my reading of it is that women get fatter as they get older until they get a goldcard. And that was true 10 years ago and is still true. And the report says “Obesity is associated with a long list of adult health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, and psychological and social problems.” Without any stats to support me and purely on knowledge of several overweight women these health conditions hit after 50 and specifically the psychological problems. I’m not denying they may have built up before that age and your link does make the rather trite observation that fat kids become fat adults on average.

        Are you sure you attached the right link?

        You mention men and I’m sure what you say is true but I was responding the the authors quote “Research from a cross section of American cities found that when a city is made more walkable, women under 50 are the most likely group to increase their steps.”. And to belabour my point please consider women over 50 – this blog is occasionally ageist.

        1. I’m very concerned about the issues for women who are over 50. And the women who are under 50 today will be even more of a concern as they age, because they are already more overweight. Ditto with men, ditto with all ages. It’s all of concern. And walking helps; it’s what we evolved doing.

        2. There is a direct link between even cities and suburbs in NZ, and certainly internationally. Alone in NZ the suburbs which are very vehicle friendly have higher obesity rates than say central Auckland. Its no surprise people who live centrally walk more constantly on a daily basis for their general living. Physical activity is a huge factor in health.

  2. You’re not convinced of the correlation between lack of walking and obesity or between poor design and lack of walking?

      1. The link between walking and obesity is being studied by many people. The story of GirlTrek has been quite interesting in the USA – a real feel-good story. 🙂

      2. Sorry Bob but your reckons are entirely insufficient evidence. The correlation between auto-dependent place design (un-walkable) and the diseases of inactivity is very very studied and convincing. Here is just one recent one from the British Medical Journal:

        ‘Governments should do all they can to encourage commuters to cycle or walk

        Physical inactivity increases the risk of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.1 Many adults are not attracted to sports and other leisure time physical activities but may be motivated to integrate physical activity into their everyday lives. Commuting by walking and cycling are such activities. In Denmark, cycling is embedded in the national culture for two reasons: it is easier to navigate cities by bicycle than by car, and taxation on new cars is punitive.

        A link between cycling and health benefits has been clear for some years—my colleagues and I first reported in 2000 that all cause mortality was 30% lower in cyclists compared with non-cyclists after multivariate adjustment.2 Since then, many studies have consistently reported lower rates of cardiovascular disease,34 type 2 diabetes,5 cancers,4 and mortality6 associated with cycling compared with not cycling. Other studies …’

        http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1740

        1. I’ll take your word for it but the previous blog had plenty of grumbles about a proposed single Mercury lane exit for a K’road station because of the steep walk involved.

          If the only purpose of good design was to prevent obesity and the diseases it triggers (generally after the age of 50) then you would argue for shutting down all most sandwich bars on our city streets and making the paths more tortuous by adding extra zig-zags or adding slopes and of course removing all cycle ways because cycling is so much easier than walking.
          Since not every obese person enters the city or even leaves home I suggest (still with no evidence) that a high sugar tax might do more good than heavy expenditure on building footpaths in the city.

          All of which doesn’t mean I’m against the idea of safe, well lit, footpaths designed as far as possible to protect pedestrians with and without wheelchairs and pushchairs from rain and wind (and does it need to be said motor vehicles).

          1. +1 to high sugar tax
            -1 to the “heavy expenditure on building footpaths in the city”. Please, if there’s heavy expenditure to be done, it’s only due to a backlog of bad design to fix. You’re open-minded enough, Bob, to listen when I say that the footpaths directly stop me and others from walking:

            Westmere is my next suburb, with many amenities I like to visit, but when my children were young, it was the lack of pedestrian crossings and footpaths that meant we did not walk there. Parents I know drop their kids off at Western Springs College because the ankle-twisting, bike-flipping pot-holed Motat driveway with no footpath and no lights that is the walking path there doesn’t meet their standards for walking safety. Rubbish collection day along Blockhouse Bay Rd and Great North Rd means certain sections, with 12 or 18 or more wheelie bins completely blocking up the very narrow footpath mean that you can’t walk without stepping out onto the road. The very busy road. Breathing in the fumes of cars along any arterial road in peak hour is so foul that if I can’t choose another route, I generally won’t go.

            Women wobble when they walk and I do way more than I want because of the bad design of our city.

          2. If we make infrastructure to hard for people with disabilities or the elderly, e.g. mercury lane, then people will choose vehicle transport rather than a combination of active transport and public transport. This will in-turn make these already venerable people walk less and therefore be less active.

            The last post about Mercury lane is a perfect example of this blog promoting making a walkable city to get more people moving. We don’t want to only support the super fit as they are not the ones we need to encourage to walk more.

          3. Heidi & Josh – happy to agree with both of you. Suburbs do vary and I don’t know Westmere although I’ve been to Motat and Western Springs often enough. It is pretty obvious that pedestrians have not been thought about much in the last say 30 years with cars winning hands down until recently but my council in North Shore is getting better. It does need a blog like this to keep the public and council informed. Highbury is a surprising and accidentally good balance between vehicles and pedestrians, Glenfield poor, Northcote good, Beachhaven good, Takapuna average, Albany disappointing. The CBD simply needs a few roads for pedestrians only – or should I say it seems to me, without any deep analysis,that…

          4. Activity is better for us than inactivity
            Therefore we should make activity more appealing
            This means reducing the percentage of time spent sitting in vehicles when travelling by making walking, cycling, buses and trains more appealing
            This does NOT mean turning the outdoor environment into some kind of perpetual assault course – this would be totally counterproductive as everyone would just stay at home

            When did you settle on “incoherence trolling” as your preferred mode

      3. There’s plenty of research out there Bob, and as you say there’s a lot of interrelated issues. Search for Obesogenic Environments on science and medical research portals and you’ll find plenty of studies which point towards a strong correlation. Here’s a few media and research papers as starters.

        http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27601593

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/17465178/

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15261894/?i=2&from=/17465178/related

        The World Health Organisation has run a Healthy Cities program for some time. It addresses lots of interrelated urban health issues, but Urban Planning has been one of its most revealing and productive programs.

        http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/urban-health/activities/healthy-cities/who-european-healthy-cities-network

  3. Tell me about it, since I moved to West Coast road (which is basically a suburban road masquerading as an overgrown jungle) with a 1km length (out of 4.8km down to Parr’s Cross) of road that has no footpath – not even a grassed border – I put on about 8-10kg.

    Whereas when I lived sans a car in Spain, I lost 15kg, and kept it off, in 12 months.

    I so want a footpath, even a grassed verge would do 🙁

      1. Living in London and staying healthy with it depends quite a lot on where you live – in relation to a tube station or bus route. I’m not surprised if we found that Londoners were more healthy than Aucklanders, despite Aucklanders stereotypically running more. But when the escalator at the Angel Islington is out of order, or the lift is broken at Covent Garden and you have to climb 300+ steps to get out, that’s going to have a right good effect on your lazy London arse.

        Or crossing from one line to the other at Bond St or Charing Cross. I got waaaaay more exercise in the UK than i do in NZ…

  4. I don’t believe that Auckland isn’t walkable. We have grade separation for the entire city. What is a problem is induced congestion from over-engineering our roads. Our current technique is to place obstacles all over our roads. This creates congestion which in turn makes our roading system less usable for all users.

    I believe the bigger problem is that there is nowhere worthwhile walking to. In my own neighbourhood I can’t think of one place worthwhile walking to within walking distance.

    Even in town there is very little worthwhile walking to. I largely avoid the overpriced stereotypical restaurants charging $25 for a main. Also avoid the rip-off bars charging $10 for a mungbeen infused disgusting craft beer that we’re supposed to nod our heads at in approval. The shopping is terrible unless you’ve got thousands to spend. The only places worth heading to are the Casino and the White House.

    Aucklanders like to slag off Hamilton and anywhere else south of the Bombays but the reality is Auckland is a hole. If Auckland can lift it’s game and become a city with world class attractions, walking will become a far more attractive proposition.

    1. If there’s nothing worth walking to, it’s not a walkable place. Walkability isn’t just about safety – it’s about places being designed to incentivise walking. A walkable city is one where you can get to the places you need to by a safe and pleasant walk.

      1. To be fair to TRM, the cheap late night chippers and single brewery booze barns of a mythical 1980’s Hamilton is a fair ol’ distance, so all this jibber jabber about improving local walkability for craft beer loving one legged single mothers shopping at the organic market isnt going to help him one bit is it?

          1. I think we should all chip in and buy Unreal Matthew a jug of mung-bean infused craft beer, just so that we can enjoy the look of disgust on his face….

            But, he does have a point. The places to visit in Auckland are surely over in Ponsonby or Newmarket and not Queen Street?

            Or is it too long since i’ve visited the Queen city?

    2. Out of interest, what would you like to see in central Auckland to make walking more worthwhile? I love walking in the city, but I also love $10 mungbeen infused disgusting craft beer so I’m already catered for relatively well.

      1. Here’s a list of things that could improve the appeal of downtown Auckland
        – Waterfront Sports Stadium
        – Mini theme park with kids and adult rides
        – Multi level H&M or similar store
        – M&M’s store
        – A world class nightclub facility (I really think there is a gap for this at the moment)
        – Strip clubs

        1. – Waterfront Sports Stadium – Spark Arena
          – Mini theme park with kids and adult rides
          – Multi level H&M or similar store – Top Shop
          – M&M’s store
          – A world class nightclub facility (I really think there is a gap for this at the moment) – The entire viaduct
          – Strip clubs – Take your pick

          We already have 4 of those 6 things.

        2. None of those fripperies would tempt me into town. But the CRL might. Just for the ride. And the climb up Mercury Lane. I’ll bring my tramping boots.

    3. Auckland CBD is as walkable as London – I’m familiar with both. You have to avoid the rush hour and learn the side streets. If I was on my own and especially if I was female or looked like a confused tourist there are places I’d tend to avoid.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. Auckland CBD is good, not great but good and compares with London. Unfortunately at the moment this is mostly restricted to the CBD and a couple of pockets like Hobsonville point, newmarket average but ok etc.

    4. @ The Real Matthew:
      (Quoting). . .“We have grade separation for the entire city. “

      What on earth do you mean by this? Or could it be that you have your own unique definition of what ‘grade separation’ means?

      Grade separation occurs when two traffic flows (or two transport-routes) that must cross each other, are separated from each other on different levels such that there is no conflict. In general, this means either a bridge over, or a subway under.

      How, in terms of walkability, does your statement apply “for the entire city”? Pedestrians have to walk across roads precisely because they are not grade-separated.

      Of course some roads – e.g. motorways – are “pedestrian-excluded”, but this does not make them “grade-separated” unless they are on a viaduct or in a tunnel. In general, motorways (and railways) serve as “at-grade” barriers to walkability, except where bridges or subways are provided.

      So just what is this .“. . .grade separation for the entire city. “?

    5. TRM, you have my sympathy. If there’s nothing you want to go to, maybe you need a new hobby. I find it hard fitting in all the things I want to walk to. Or are you stuck in Big Box Retail land? I must say, there are some pretty dismal car-based suburbs out there.

  5. Well, this lack of walkability is one of the first things I noticed when moving to Auckland again from Europe. Also, the reaction of motorists to pedestrians in residential streets is very different. In Europe, car drivers slow down to let pedestrians cross. In Auckland they rush towards you and expect you to quickly scuttle off the road.

    1. Yeah, and it’s got increasingly worse since 1994 or so, when the council started putting in the “Pedestrians Must Give Way to Traffic” signs. How the blame for car-pedestrian accidents was transferred to pedestrians is something we should be ashamed of, and working hard to undo.

  6. Having lived downtown for a few years now, and migrated from a semi employed bachelor to a responsible husband and father in the rat race, my walking habits have changed too. Where I would once walk for hours, without particular regard for time or destination, I am now in the constant race that is 9 to 5 slavery to the “man” and after hours care of a very beautiful lady, and a very handsome small person, so walking has become far more timetabled. I imagine that most people are under such constraints. While driving downtown with the CRL in its pre-construction phase has become frustrating (as it should be in a city centre that should be free of cars), walking has become less efficient also, although I secretly enjoy the constantly moving crossings and other obstacles around Albert Street, I pretend that I do not, lest I appear less than normal. Within what I consider walking distance of my apartment, I can reach Victoria Park, Western Park, Myers Park, Albert Park, sans voiture, plus The Domain and Wynyard Quarter, all of which are extremely pleasant areas for pedestrian activity. To me the most off-putting aspect of walking are the smog emitting private motor vehicles that generally accompany a decent stroll; shared spaces are the epitome of this awful combination. We are starting to get past the jenius idea of putting bikes and buses in the same lane, how are we moving backwards with pedestrians and gasoline powered boxes? Auckland’s geography makes it less friendly for both walking and cycling, but as long as you remember that participating in these activities will be beneficial to your feel good factor, they shouldn’t be unconquerable. I often note the queues of car leaving the city in the evening, most of them heading down a good train line or ferry route. If those that sit in traffic took the time to find an alternative, more relaxing method of commuting, they might be able to incorporate a vigorous morning and evening perambulation. Hence upping our step count, a statistic that I agree is of no use at all. Also in regard to obesity I am a little skeptical of the statistics, I have measured myself with BMI and BAI, gaining an “overweight” result, and if you could see me, overweight is probably the last thing that you would use for a descriptive poem.
    I often walk down Fort Street thinking how very close it is to a European Boulevard, notwithstanding the four wheeled beasts constantly trying to run down the lovers, the dreamers, and me.
    Keep up the good walk!

    1. My grandson and I love Myers park and the steps – I taught him how to count to big numbers on those steps. From the ferry to K’Rd with minimum of car fumes ~ it is a good route to explore if you are not in a hurry.

    2. Definitely agree with BMI. This definitely skews the figures here in NZ. Unfortunately BMI is about as, actually less accurate than looking at a person and guessing their body fat percentage. And given NZ’s relatively high sporting participation, fit athletes are considered obese due to their high muscle weight. Technically I’m highly overweight (BMI – 28.7) (BMI – 30 is obese), however at 85kg my fat percentage is only fluctuating around the 12 – 15% mark (healthy). But thats because I head to the gym 5days a week. Remember by BMI standards most of the professional rugby players in NZ are obese.

      But disagree with steps, although on the face of it is not that important of a measurement, it does show our sedimentary lifestyle. Sure some negate the effects by grinding away at the gym, but many don’t, and its the consistent daily activity thats important, as well as food we are eating.

  7. Activity inequality? Someone got paid government money to think that shit up. Penn and Teller did a great episode of Bullshit on weight loss. And yes I do rank them higher than in the truth telling stakes than University types trying to farm their next grant.

    1. It’s just a term for something I’d noticed and commented on 20 years ago in Cairns. People tend to be able to be active in the heat there, or not.

  8. Part small factor in Auckland is the older “one seat ride” with PT. Our New Network roll out means more transfering so increased activity/walking. Seems by default the more dense cities will result in more walking, the extreme being a NZ rural town where of course everyone drives. Suburban life generally for mums is the driving of children to and from school and after school activities. Hopefully we will see this change to more safe biking and/or walking to school. We have a friend where basically there whole day sometimes is mum the taxi driver.

    1. PT users do walk more. Cities that optimise Active and Transit modes over driving have healthier populations… This is of course an economic benefit of investments in PT, cycling amenity, and better more interesting streets, lanes, parks waterfronts, footpaths etc… and all with less and more distant car parking, ideally.

      The payout is in socialised health costs. Including mental health…. Just another way that place and Transit and Active investments are valuable but that is hard to capture financially.

      1. Thankfully we now capture this for active mode projects. Health benefits are usually the biggest part of the benefits when I assess them.

          1. We have a problem as a country with depression. As your link shows, bad design increases depression rates by 12 – 20%. And from other studies, the longer the driving commute, the worse it gets. The effects of good design are so far-reaching. I wonder if anyone’s done a study on depression in teenagers who can walk to school vs those who are driven out-of-zone…

    2. Mum as taxi-driver is probably a big part of the picture for inactivity in women. Another one is that working mums are more often the ones picking the preschoolers up from daycare, and can’t be late (either for the daycare, or the child). Ten and twenty years ago, this led to mums deciding to take the car, not PT, as a more reliable way of getting there on time. Is the improvement in PT since then changing this?

      1. It’s not just reliability but the time taken, tight schedules from one event to another etc, young ones (safety) & price when several children. We try and get our children to use PT as much as possible & often fortunate that the events are right next to the southern line etc.

      2. Agree, I catch the train home and walk to daycare for the pickup, it is more reliable than traffic and saves mucking around with the carseat. They have parking for the buggy so we can leave it there for the day.

  9. What also should be mentioned is menopausal women need to walk to help ward of osteoporosis as bone strength and muscle tone deteriorate with age. a friend who had a fall and broke bones was diagnosed with osteoporosis and now carries a pedometer and makes sure she does at least 3000 steps a day along with having a good diet which is also important.

  10. You want to go and check out small town NZ for lack of walking despite often reasonable facilities and way less traffic. There are many out there that would drive to bed if their hallway was wide enough.

    1. your right and its a shame as you could probably cycle from one side of a provincial city to the other in an hour or so.

      Those places could be great if they were cycle friendly.

      1. I don’t understand why one town doesn’t break the mould and offer a really different walking and cycling-friendly environment. The point of difference would be very attractive to many.

        1. As somebody who grew up and studied in Christchurch during the period where cars became relatively cheap and cycling participation fell away, I’m going to commend the CCC for being on the right track. Despite interference from Gerry Brownlee and the “business lobby”. The execution may not be perfect but they have a broad cycle network planned.

          Last Christmas when I was back visiting and out walking with my mother we ended up beside one of the new cycle paths in an inner suburban area where there was a steady stream of riders of all ages on all kinds of bikes. The walking environment had also improved a lot compared to a few years ago. It was one of those moments that pulls at the heart to move back.

        2. The towns I’m thinking of – places with 5000 or less, such as Alexandra, Hokitika, Inglewood etc are already walkable. They often have a good street grid layout, there isn’t a lot of traffic and you can pretty much walk and definitely cycle from anywhere in town to work, school, the pub, the Hunting and Fishing store.

          It appears to be a culture thing. If you go to the local school you will see the bike racks are chocker with bikes and most other kids walk to school but something changes when they become adults. I guess there is easy parking and why would you walk when you can drive.

      2. More like half an hour to cycle across a provincial city – I could cycle from one side of Christchurch to the other in an hour…

    2. There seems to be a general misunderstanding in the comments above of what the term walkable means in this context. It doesn’t just mean able to be walked, that is after all a very low bar.

      To be considered a highly Walkable place in urbanism means that the place rewards, encourages, incentivises walking as a primary means of movement. That walking isn’t just merely possible, but that it is the default and obvious way to move around, as suggested by the very form and amenity of a place. That simply isn’t the case in most NZ towns and suburbs of the last sixty years. Sure there may be a footpath, and the road may be cross-able, but that doesn’t mean there is anything of interest within walking distance. Boring places are not walkable. Anywhere where attractions are a drive apart is not walkable.

      Walkable means the reverse of auto-dependent. Walkable means places with a great deal of interest at a walking distance, it means that getting in a car would mean missing things along the way. It is fine grained, rich, intense, peopled, complex, layered….

      It is a technical term, coined by Jeff Speck and fully described in his book:
      Walkable City.

      1. As an example, walkable means enjoying trees along the route. So a plan for increasing walking needs to retain mature trees and to plant more canopy trees. If necessary, the road needs to be reallocated from cars to walking and cycling. But the trees should not be removed to accommodate walking and cycling. This needs to be established as a basic rule. Goff needs to increase his initiative to state more clearly that AT must also retain trees, not just plant canopy trees.

  11. ‘Motorists have right of way’ signs like the one pictured have no legal basis and whoever puts them up is acting beyond their legal authority.
    The road rules have rules about how motorists interact with other motorists. They have rules about how motorists interact with pedestrians *at marked crossings*. They are silent on the question of how motorists interact with pedestrians away from marked crossings. There is NO general rule of the road that says ‘pedestrians must yield to motorists away from marked crossings’. In principle, away from marked crossings a pedestrian has just as much right to cross a road at the time and place of their choice (even if that holds up a motorist) as a motorist has to drive along it.

    1. Strictly speaking too, our laws are all about who has “precedence”, not right of way. Someone might have to give way to you in a particular situation, but that doesn’t give you absolute right of way – if they fail to yield you can’t just deliberately run them over (to say nothing of other things you might have to give way to, such as emergency vehicles or stalled vehicles).

    2. So how do we get the signs changed? They have worsened driver psychology and will make attempts to bring in more pedestrian rights difficult. We need their city-wide removal, with all “courtesy crossings” reverting to “pedestrian crossings” along with an education campaign, And I think this needs to come before or at the same time as a change of rule that cars turning into a side-street have to give way to pedestrians. People are pushing for the latter rule change, and I agree with them, but I don’t think it should come before we’ve fixed the former problem.

      1. How about starting with a LGOIMA request asking for the legal basis for the wording on those signs? (Can’t do that where I live, because as far as I know there aren’t any such signs – fortunately!)

        1. Good idea. If I also asked for the research behind the decision to use the signs and to not install proper pedestrian crossings. I wonder if they would give me anything?

      2. Presumably someone has put up these signs at places of particular conflict to reduce risk of accidents, which, realistically speaking, is not unreasonable. The problem is that the default approach to reducing risk always seems to start with corralling and discouraging pedestrians.
        The policy should be: if there’s enough conflict to make someone think they should put up the sign, that’s enough for us to say that they should build a zebra crossing .

        1. Not necessarily a zebra crossing. It may well be a signalized crossing or underpass, but the use of these signs should only be permitted on a temporary basis. Road safety should be subject to the hierarchy of controls.

        2. I think the decision was made for reasons of safety. Typical wanting-to-cross-the-road places, no more conflict than everywhere else. Some of the places they may have been concerned about keeping traffic flowing but some of them are so out-of-the-way this wouldn’t have been a reason.

          Whoever made the decision looked at a very narrow set of research into statistics of accidents, not the wider context of culture around driving and walking. That’s why I think it’s important to get the research they based the decision on – we could pull it to pieces in no time with the research available now, 23 years later.

        3. Or put in place 15 kph speed limits and speed bumps.

          Years ago and the first time they put speed bumps on Queen Street in Richmond I was doing 40 to 50 kph at night no one around, my head hit the roof of the car, I was much more careful after that.

  12. I agree with the article about walking and our infrastructure, but I think there are several other factors too. Commuting to work is not our only trip. During my lifetime there has been a proliferation of increasingly large “big box” shopping centres that are very car focused. They make walking for shopping difficult, sometimes dangerous. Places like the Botany centre springs to mind. Firms like Westfield are notorious for them.

    These centers have several bad effects. They kill off walkable high streets and local suburban stores within walking distance. They concentrate all the shops at distances too far to walk, especially with groceries. They require large capacity roads for access, which means they wind up being islands in a sea of bitumen. Now they are morphing to include a lot of entertainment activities (cinemas etc). And they rarely provide good PT facilities, and if so only after arguments with transport authorities. Others can debate the causes, but these centres I think are a prime cause of people adopting a “driving culture” even when a suburb is closely settled. They should be subject to maximum parking rate rules, not minimums, to force them to provide better PT and walking links. IMO there should also be a cap on absolute size, or a sliding scale on development contributions linked to size. i.e bigger pays more for roadworks, PT links

    They are not an automatic outcome of “market forces”. I was surprised by their comparative absence in some other countries I have visited, notably Canada and Austria. they represent large business interests lobbying government to establish monopolies.

    1. Yes, of course, over stating the importance of the commute is also a function of wrong-headed institutional and political framings. Walkability is about urban form and its impacts on all aspects of our lives, much of which is not about getting to and from work.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. The only thing I ever gain at such places is despair and depression. But questioning them does indeed question the whole economic paradigm. “A healthy economy” relies on people buying stuff they don’t need, and these Big Box Retailers are a sign of success in that paradigm. Canada has them – even Vancouver and Quebec. Finland and France and Ireland have them (I’ve never been to Austria though.) Perhaps we can tinker with their relative predominance in the city, but to really design well we have to start using markers of success other than GDP, valuing things like the environment, social health and the informal economy.

      1. I should have said that they have fewer of them, rather than not at all. But certainly we plan whole road systems around them, and we should be sending them the bill more often. As I look around Parnell and other leafy inner suburbs, I do not see the absence of big box retailers doing the local economy too much harm. Newmarket is a better example, and much more walkable.

        It is some years since I was in Canada and Austria, so apologies if their situation has changed. Austria had strict rules on assessing impact on other retail stores, so it was hard to get them approved there.

        1. We cold also build big box much better by demanding that they incorporate active street frontages and sane road networks that allow PT and active user access.

        2. “It is some years since I was in Canada and Austria, so apologies”. No apologies needed. I don’t know the answer to how much of the retail market is filled by malls or big box retail in each country, and I would like to know. I think you’re right that there are fewer of them in other places. I’d love to see a post on this if someone knows. I’d love to see analysis of how much money goes into the local economy and how much consumption is induced by different retail environments. Very interesting stuff.

  13. The company I work for, recently gave out Fitbits to all of its employees. They have a competition every month to see how far everyone has walked and give financial rewards to anyone that exceeds 6000 steps a day average.
    Interestingly only about 10% of the 400 or so workforce reach target of above 6000. Many are far far below that. I would say the average is around 2500 steps a day
    Also interestingly, I work in a city where the footpaths are in perfect condition and there are punitive measures against personal car ownership.
    Almost no one is fat.
    This shows that the link between walking and obesity is far from proven and it has been my own personal experience – I did a sport that was weight and fitness critical – that diet has a lot more to do with weight control than exercise. Especially cardio exercise, which is pretty useless for shedding calories.

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