Despite the fact that walking is the most natural, healthy, democratic and economical way of moving on short distances, there is a significant share of short routes that are travelled by car. A study on travel habits in the Ljubljana Urban Region has shown that half of all the journeys in the Municipality of Ljubljana are shorter than 3 km. In the surrounding municipalities, 50.9% of trips by car are shorter than 2 km; 21.5% are even shorter than 1 km. That’s the distance a person can walk in just 10 minutes.
The Pedestrian project (Pešec) aimed to promote walking as a means of transport and sustainable mobility. The project objectives were:
- To improve the understanding of walking as a means of transport
- To connect organisations and stakeholders that are active in the field of walking.
As part of the project activities, an overview was compiled from of the existing research and documents and available data from Slovenia and abroad, together with interviews with three experts from the field. Later, focus groups were organised in order to discover where the individual experts and stakeholder representatives see obstacles to the development of walking as a means of transport and how to overcome them.
Due to the large number of stakeholders, we organized two focus groups and asked them to answer to following questions.
- Is the general understanding of walking as a means of transport satisfactory?
- What are the main obstacles for not walking on short routes and using a car instead? Do these hurdles differ between cities, small towns and rural areas?
- Who are the key stakeholders in addressing these obstacles and promoting walking as a means of transport?
- What would be the key measures to promote short-distance walking? What is the role of the state and what is the role of the municipalities?
- What benefits of walking should be emphasized when communicating and promoting it to the general public?
We ensured a variety of the representatives of different stakeholders at the focus groups. The first focus group consisted of representatives from the Urban planning institute of the Republic of Slovenia, the Public Agency for Safety in Traffic, the Municipality of Ljubljana, the company LUZ d. d., the Scientific and Research Centre Bistra Ptuj, the Party of Cyclists and Pedestrians and the Maribor Cycling Network. In second focus group, the representatives of the following bodies were present: The Ministry of Infrastructure, spatial planning and consulting companies City Studio and PNZ, the Scientific and Research Centre Bistra Ptuj, the Party of Cyclists and Pedestrians and the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning.
The results from both focus groups showed that level of awareness of walking as a means of transport is not satisfactory and that not enough research has been done on walking in Slovenia and Europe. The methodologies for collecting data differs between the concluded studies and the data is not always comparable.
Although the pedestrian appears at the top of the sustainable transport pyramid, this it is not the case in practice. In the planning process, the pedestrian usually comes last: urban space is generally reserved for cars, followed by cyclists and then pedestrians. As the participants emphasized, these priorities show that walking was not treated equally with a passenger car at the regulation level.
The participants listed the lack of infrastructure and the categorization of walking infrastructure in the spatial plans among the obstacles to walking as a choice of transport mode. It was also highlighted that there are no pedestrian advocates, so they cannot be seen and heard as a group do not identify themselves as pedestrians, despite the fact that everyone is one as soon as we get out of the car or off the bike.
The perception of the amount of time a person would spend in choosing walking as a traffic mode was also emphasized, although choosing a car over walking on short distances often consumes more time.
Last but not least, it was emphasized that walking is more than just a transport mode if we take into account the social component. For example, one of the participants pointed out the example of a mother and daughter going to school by car or on foot. In the car, there is a certain distance, a barrier between them, while on foot, they stoll hand in hand, observing and experiencing the surroundings.
The project is co-financed by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of the RS within the tender for non-government organizations for the years 2018 and 2019. It is carried out by the IPOP – Institute of Spatial Policies as its head, and the CIPRA Slovenia, Society for the protection of the Alps.
Photo: Luka Vidic