Next week, from 7th till 10th October 2019 the City of Rotterdam will be hosting the 20th International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities in partnership with Walk21. Walk21 is the international charity dedicated to ensuring the right to walk and opportunity to enjoy. It started in 2000 with a conference in London and the conference has been held every year since, in different cities around the world. Typically every other year the event has been hosted in Europe but every year always draws on the best information and presenters worldwide, and delegates come from around the globe.
Over the last ten years Rotterdam has transformed its centre, encouraging people to meet, stay and enjoy the city by reallocating road and parking space, slowing traffic speeds and investing in quality public space at an impressive scale. The results are measurable in increases in footfall, dwell time, happiness and health. Rotterdam’s approach, supported by a new National Walking Agenda, make a compelling package for politicians and professionals from around the world to experience how walking can be used as an accelerator for more equitable, healthy and smarter places.
International delegates attending a Walk21 conference do so to have the opportunity to hear from leading professionals about programmes, policies and projects that really work and explore those themes in action through walking tours and visits arranged in the host city. This year, the conference programme will revolve around three main themes: ‘Smart’, ‘Healthy’ and ‘For Everyone’.
In relation to ‘Smart’ transitions to smart urban design and new mobility solutions will be discussed. Measuring walking and walkability and integrating walking into transport management tools and decision making should assure smart city is designed on a human level. ‘Healthy’ is about active mobility and open spaces that are inviting to walk or exercise in. And ‘For Everyone’ is about creating safe and attractive streets for children and elderly people first, thus delivering public benefit for everyone.
IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies will also be in Rotterdam. Our director Marko Peterlin will present our efforts in supporting active travel to school in Slovenia. Active travel to school programme supports children, parents, schools and local communities in Slovenia in the organisation of everyday walking / biking to school routine, primarily through organisation of Walking buses (Pešbus) and Bike trains (Bicivlak). The programme offers a plethora of tools including tutorials and materials for the organisation of walking routes, stops and timetables, and escort service of parents and volunteers. The typical Walking bus or Bike train lasts for two weeks, but some schools continue with the activities beyond the initially planned period, in some cases all year around. Active travel to school is cheap to organise, has an immediate impact on the wellbeing of the children, their performance at school and supports healthy habits of children.
The programme started with a pilot edition in spring 2016 with just 3 schools and 81 children, but every season new schools are joining the initiative. 94 schools took part in the programme until autumn 2019 with more than 150 walking buses running in September 2019, involving more than 2500 children.
Since 2015, the programme is provided by IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies in collaboration with various partner organisations, since 2017 with CIPRA Slovenia and Focus, Association for Sustainable Development, and supported by Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia.
Photo: Luka Vidic