Six Big Questions From the Walking and the Life of the City Symposium

Six Big Questions From the Walking and the Life of the City Symposium

“Walking: It’s What You Do Once You’ve Parked Your Car…”

walking-bk-660x497Or so lamented Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt, in his keynote address at last week’s Walking and the Life of the City Symposium, organized by the NYU Wagner School’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. Vanderbilt set the morning’s theme by charting the history of walking from its criminalization with the first jaywalking laws in 1915, to its sharp fall from public favor in the 1970s following a spike in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), changes in land use (widened streets, trees removed between roads and sidewalks), and the popularization of our favorite modern conveniences, like drive-throughs and escalators.

“Walking is like sex” Vanderbilt postulated. “Everyone is doing it, but nobody knows how much.” Quipping that we haven’t yet had “the great Kinsey report of walking,” he proposed that much work needs to be done to define not just the quantitative indicators for walking, but also the qualitative indicators that can help us understand how to make truly complete streets. Together, the researchers’ presentations started to present a Kinsey-like breadth of information about the role that walking plays in contemporary culture. Full presentations will soon be available online here, and a publication of the day’s proceedings is in the offing. In the meantime, brief summaries of the presentations are coupled below with a big question raised by each researcher’s findings.

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