How to Make Cities More Walkable

How to Make Cities More Walkable
Photo by Nerea Martí Sesarino / Unsplash

In today's fast-paced urban environments, creating walkable cities has become increasingly important. Walkability not only promotes healthier lifestyles but also fosters community interactions and reduces traffic congestion. If you're interested in making your city more walkable, here are some key strategies to consider:

1. Invest in Pedestrian Infrastructure

To enhance walkability, it's essential to invest in pedestrian infrastructure. Walkability is heavily reliant on the presence of well-maintained sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian-friendly traffic signals. In walkable cities, sidewalks are prioritized and designed to accommodate pedestrians comfortably. They are wide enough to allow for safe and easy passing and should be well-maintained to ensure a smooth walking surface. In addition, crosswalks should be clearly marked, with adequate signage and signal timings that prioritize pedestrian safety. Pedestrian-friendly traffic signals can help regulate traffic flow and provide designated crossing times for pedestrians.

One example of successful pedestrian infrastructure investment can be found in Barcelona, Spain. The city implemented the "superblocks" concept, which involves redesigning entire blocks to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists. By reclaiming road space and converting it into pedestrian-only zones, Barcelona has created safe and inviting environments for walking.

2. Promote Mixed-Use Development

Promoting mixed-use development is crucial for creating walkable cities. This approach involves integrating residential, commercial, and recreational spaces within close proximity. When different land uses are combined, people can live, work, and play in the same neighborhood, reducing the need for long commutes and making walking a convenient mode of transportation for everyday activities.

Walkable neighborhoods have a diverse range of amenities within walking distance, including grocery stores, restaurants, schools, parks, and entertainment options. This proximity allows residents to accomplish daily tasks and meet their needs without relying on cars. Vancouver, Canada, exemplifies successful mixed-use development, particularly in its downtown area. The city's planning policies have prioritized the creation of vibrant neighborhoods where residents can access a wide range of amenities on foot, reducing dependence on cars and encouraging walkability.

3. Prioritize Safety

Safety is paramount for pedestrians in walkable cities. Implementing traffic calming measures and creating safe environments are key aspects of promoting walkability. Traffic calming measures, such as reducing speed limits and installing traffic islands, help create safer streets. Slower vehicle speeds significantly reduce the risk of accidents and make pedestrians feel more comfortable walking alongside traffic. Raised crosswalks can also improve visibility and provide safe crossing opportunities for pedestrians.

A shining example of prioritizing safety for pedestrians can be found in Stockholm, Sweden. The city implemented Vision Zero, a road traffic safety initiative aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries. Through measures such as lower speed limits, pedestrian-oriented street design, and improved road infrastructure, Stockholm has significantly reduced pedestrian accidents and created safer streets for walking.

4. Enhance Public Transportation

Improving public transportation systems is instrumental in enhancing walkability. A well-connected and reliable public transportation network provides viable alternatives to driving for longer trips, complementing the walkability of a city. When public transit is easily accessible, frequent, and efficient, more people are likely to choose walking for shorter trips to and from transit stops.

Cities like Zurich, Switzerland, have successfully integrated public transportation and walkability. The city's comprehensive and reliable transit system seamlessly connects with pedestrian infrastructure, making it convenient for residents to combine walking with public transit for their daily commuting needs. By integrating these modes of transportation, Zurich has created a sustainable and walkable urban environment.

5. Design for Accessibility

Creating walkable cities involves designing urban spaces to be accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Accessible design ensures that everyone, including individuals with mobility challenges, can navigate the city with ease. Features such as curb cuts, ramps, and elevators enable individuals using wheelchairs, strollers, or other mobility aids to travel conveniently. Tactile indicators at crosswalks assist individuals with visual impairments in navigating safely, and clear and concise signage benefits people with cognitive disabilities.

The city of Tokyo, Japan, exemplifies the commitment to accessibility in walkable urban environments. Tokyo has implemented universal design principles throughout the city, ensuring that sidewalks, public spaces, and transportation facilities are accessible to all. The integration of accessibility features creates a welcoming environment for people with disabilities and promotes inclusive walkability.

6. Create Green Spaces

Integrating green spaces, parks, and pedestrian-friendly plazas into the urban fabric is crucial for walkable cities. These areas provide opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and social interaction, making walking a more enjoyable experience. Parks and green spaces serve as destinations and rest areas for pedestrians, encouraging physical activity and enhancing the overall quality of life in a walkable city. Pedestrian-friendly plazas and gathering spaces create a sense of community, acting as focal points for events and fostering a vibrant street life.

The High Line in New York City is a prime example of repurposing urban space to create a vibrant green corridor. Built on a historic elevated railway track, the High Line has been transformed into a linear park that attracts both locals and tourists. This unique green space not only enhances the walkability of the surrounding neighborhood but also provides a serene and inviting environment for pedestrians.

7. Engage the Community

Engaging the community is crucial for successful walkability initiatives. By involving residents, business owners, and community organizations, cities can ensure that walkability projects align with the needs and priorities of the people who will benefit from them. Engaging the community can take various forms, including public meetings, surveys, and workshops. It is important to seek input, gather feedback, and build consensus to create a shared vision for walkability.

Curitiba, Brazil, is known for its successful community engagement in urban planning. The city has established a robust participatory process that allows residents to actively contribute to decision-making processes, including those related to walkability. This engagement has resulted in the development of innovative transportation systems and pedestrian-friendly urban spaces that reflect the needs and aspirations of the community.

8. Looking at Examples: Copenhagen, Denmark

One of the best ways to learn about creating walkable cities is by looking at successful examples around the world. Copenhagen, Denmark, stands as an outstanding example of a walkable city. Known for its commitment to prioritizing active transportation, Copenhagen has invested heavily in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. The city boasts an extensive network of cycling lanes, pedestrian-only zones, and innovative bridge designs that prioritize pedestrians and cyclists. Copenhagen's emphasis on pedestrian safety, attractive public spaces, and accessible amenities has transformed it into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. By studying Copenhagen's approach to pedestrian infrastructure, safety measures, and community engagement, cities can gain valuable insights and inspiration for making their own cities more walkable.

For more examples of the most walkable cities in the world, you can refer to our blog post titled "The Most Walkable Cities in the World". This comprehensive list showcases cities that have excelled in creating pedestrian-friendly environments and provides further inspiration for walkability initiatives.


By implementing these strategies and drawing inspiration from successful examples worldwide, cities can take significant steps toward making their urban environments more pedestrian-friendly. Creating walkable cities requires a holistic approach, involving urban planning, infrastructure improvements, community involvement, and a shared commitment to creating a pedestrian-friendly environment.

Walkability promotes not only healthier and more active lifestyles but also social connections, reduced traffic congestion, improved air quality, and more sustainable cities. By prioritizing walkability, cities can create vibrant, livable spaces where people can easily access amenities, connect with their communities, and enjoy the numerous benefits of walking.

Let's take the first step towards a more walkable future!