WalkSydney: April 2020
Our last newsletter was at the end of last year, and who would have thought that the world could change so much in such a short time. This is first and foremost a health crisis and we share everyone else’s hopes that Australia can get through the worst of this time with minimum loss of life.
It is also an economic and urban crisis. Never have our modern cities had such a dramatic, sudden shock applied to them across the board. Physical activity in Australian cities is down 80%, the economy is in freefall, and it looks like we have at least 6 months of this to go, if not a lot longer.
We’ve divided up some important reading and campaigns into two lists. Firstly, are those urban and transport things that need to be urgently considered during the present crisis, and secondly are those that need to be looked at as part of the recovery of our cities.
Walking during a pandemic:
1. Many of the country's press buttons are still manual and so acting as a public health risk. We’ve had some success in central Melbourne and Sydney where they have now been automated, However, this needs to happen around the country. We've started a campaign to have these changes implemented nationwide.
Please sign and share this petition to ‘automate pedestrian pushbuttons to reduce the spread of coronavirus.’
2. There are increasing calls both overseas and in Australia to implement a 30km/h limit in cities. This is to protect the increased amount of pedestrians and cyclists using footpaths, and needing to give each other wide berth, but also critically to reduce accidents that lead to hospitalisation.
3. WalkSydney features an article arguing for the closure of some streets and for wider walkways. Regina Haertsch writes: “It is becoming clear that more space must be created to allow for safe social distancing. Cities which are responding to this social need are organising some car-free streets for some times to enable people to move about with 1.5 to 2 metres between each other. New York and Philadelphia are such cities.”
Walking during the recovery:
The economic and health value of walking is now largely settled, and the challenge is instead budgets and implementation. The recovery of our cities is going to involve massive infrastructure spending to keep employment up, and this needs easy, tangible projects preferably high-value outcomes.
1. Spending money on walking and cycling is some of the easiest and best spending possible and produces substantial gains for the economy immediately.
2. The steady removal of cars from central cities continues abroad with San Francisco being the latest to ban cars from key central city streets with good early results .
3. We will argue in the coming months that the beginning of the recovery is the best time to make these changes in Australia. 30kmh in central cities, better walking conditions, and more car-free areas are the future of cities. People aren’t driving now so the habits have already been disrupted and this is an almost seamless moment to make changes that will benefit the short term economy and the long term well being of the country.
If you are passionate about either the need to lower speeds to 30kmh or closing down some streets please get in touch with us or join WalkSydney. We are also keen to publish more articles and posts on our website so if you want to write anything please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join WalkSydney and get involved with action and ideas to make Sydney safe and pleasant for pedestrians. We advocate for improving the walkability of our city. People-friendly streets are the foundation of healthy, inclusive, connected, and sustainable communities Help make walking in Sydney better.