Despite great concern for pedestrian safety, little is known about the possibility of walking at stops and stations and the consequences for street planning. “This is unfortunate, because we don’t realize how important walking is to public transport,” says Helge Hellenhutter, associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He conducts research in the design of walkable cities and has a Ph.D. in the relationship between walking and public transportation. *
This article was previously published in OV-Magazine 3/2022. Would you like to receive OV Magazine on paper or digitally from now on? Then take a subscription.
Walking is a form of locomotion, Hellenhutter asserts, but also part of human behaviour. Pedestrians are agile, can skip or walk around small obstacles, change direction from second to second, speed up or slow down effortlessly, automatically walk into the store, in short: exhibit unpredictable behavior. This makes it difficult to “steer” the pedestrian; Attempts to do this by erecting fences and the like often backfire. “We walk almost always and everywhere. So we have to deal with it differently from cycling or driving a car.”
Safe and attractive
A good walking environment must, of course, be safe, but above all it must also be attractive. The latter is often lacking. “The safety of pedestrians is usually viewed from the perspective of the driver. The consequences of vehicle non-safety are then passed on to the pedestrian. This is done by creating special infrastructure: fences with walking paths, bridges, tunnels with stairs and ramps. This is indeed safe, but such an infrastructure is not Very attractive to pedestrians. It takes extra time and energy, especially for those who are less mobile, and the main effect is that car traffic can move more smoothly. So it’s actually car infrastructure, although we don’t realize that.”
From a sustainable mobility point of view, these solutions are not good and even counterproductive. Walking becomes unattractive because of all the turns you have to take as a pedestrian. Moreover, the forest of fences, which they love especially in Britain, only provides a false sense of security. “People walk around it or climb on top of it and then keep going on the wrong side a lot of times.”
An attractive walking environment can triple the reach of public transportation.
Statistically speaking, the number of pedestrian accidents appears to have decreased after such infrastructure was built, but these numbers are difficult to interpret, says Hellenhutter. “After all, it doesn’t say why something happened. Is this reduction really due to safer road design or are there fewer pedestrians because the area is not attractive for walking? You really need to know that in order to take the right actions.”
Environmental appeal is just as important as safety. Sidewalks that are too narrow due to randomly parked bikes or filled with poles, fences, and other obstacles are not inviting for walking. This is not suitable for pedestrians, but also for public transport. An attractive walking environment can triple the reach of public transportation, because people are willing to cover greater distances on foot. This leads to more potential public transit users.”
Walking and public transportation are often seen as two separate forms of commuting, while Hillnhütter sees a good combination of the two as very beneficial. A trip by public transport consists of at least four parts: first walking or cycling to the station or station as a pre-transport, then waiting, then taking a bus, tram or train and finally walking or cycling as a post-transport.
“In most cities and regions, more than 90 percent of pre-transportation consists of walking, only in the Netherlands does the bicycle play a substantial role. Post-transportation almost always consists of walking. In addition to waiting and riding, make the entire trip using public transport every 50 minutes. In addition, surveys show that walking or cycling results in nearly 70 percent of impressions and the trip itself only 30 percent. This goes to show how important pedestrians and a good walking environment are to public transportation.”
“With the exception of the Netherlands, pre-transport consists of more than 90 percent walking.”
Research into combining walking and public transportation has yielded a number of surprising insights. Obviously, people who walk to a stop do so faster on average than people who walk to their final destination after getting off the bus. Logical: More than 80 percent are in a hurry in the pre-transition phase, while this is just over 30 percent in the post-transition phase.
“This has consequences, because it means that people in the pre-transit stage show more risky behaviour. It also appears that pedestrians in the suburbs do not stop equally from all directions. More than half of them walk in the same direction as the bus and only 8 percent walk towards the bus.” Getting off the bus, you see the same pattern: even then, most people walk with the bus, although the difference between directions is less significant. The difference also decreases as the stops get closer to the centre, as people come equally from all directions.”
One consequence of this “follow-along” is that relatively many cross just before stopping, Hellenhutter says, and is thus a “hotspot” for collisions. “These are factors that need to be taken into account when designing stops. We are now mainly looking at infrastructure, but you also have to take human behavior into account.”
This also happens in Zurich. “A few tram stops are designed in such a way that the tram gets in the way of car traffic behind. Passengers who get off can cross a pedestrian crossing in front of a waiting tram, and then stop at a traffic island before crossing the other half of the road. This is a good design, though You have to have space for a traffic island and trams cannot stand still for long on busy roads.In the Zurich transport company the person in charge of operation is also responsible for safety around the stations.Having someone in such a key position in the organization take care of the matter is important Extremely “.
It makes sense for people to run faster or run when they see a tram or bus coming and crossing the street where it is not allowed. The Roads Authority’s drive to merely put up fences is, as already noted, counterproductive. “In practice, fences actually lead to more crossings in undesirable places. This is also human behavior that you have to take into account when designing the road.”
Collaboration of the parties is essential to achieving a good combination of walking and public transportation. Hillnhütter finds it difficult to decide who he should be, because standards and rules differ in each country, as well as responsibilities and administrative organization. But in general, customers and transport companies must work together with road managers and infrastructure designers to improve the accessibility of pedestrian stops. And this cooperation is now taking root in Copenhagen, although we are still waiting for concrete results.
Interest in pedestrians is growing, with Switzerland being one of the countries where a lot is being done. “Many cities have invented interesting ways to increase pedestrian safety through good street design, for example with a central lane where they can pause while crossing, restrictions on vehicular traffic. Speed is 20 km/h and priority for pedestrians. This makes the area more Pedestrian attraction.”
In addition to Zurich as a good example, Norway and Denmark are also now paying attention to the link between walking and public transport, although there are no examples of concrete measures yet. Currently, many cities – also in other countries – limit themselves to “standard solutions” with fences, tunnels, etc. “By the way, it’s interesting for a city like Copenhagen, but certainly for the Netherlands as well, to also look at the interaction between cyclists and pedestrians. We also know very little about that. One of my master’s students is currently working on this, but the results of his research are not yet known.” .
* Pedestrian access to public transportation. Stavanger, University of Stavanger, 2016
Helge Hellenhutter, 49, is married and has two children. Lives in Trondheim, Norway. Hillnhütter has two master’s degrees in architecture and urban development in Germany, the UK and Italy and a PhD in sustainable urban mobility from the University of Stavanger, Norway.
2022-present Director of Walk21EUROPE
2018-present Associate Professor at the Institute of Architecture and Planning, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
2017 – Present Consultant at Multiconsult Consultancy
2015 – present Founding Director of Hillnhütter City and Mobility Research & Consulting
2006-2015 Asplan Viak Consultancy Norway
2005-2006 HPA Architecture Ltd. , China
2003-2005 Scott Wilson, China
More about walking
Running doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Book “Loop!” , written by urban planner Annemieke Molster and landscape architect Sandra Schuit, is a book for anyone who wants to know how we can make our towns and cities more walkable. You can order the book here.
In addition, Acquire Publishing also organizes the Masterclass Loop! On the morning of Thursday 26 January in Utrecht. Guest lecturers Molster and Schuit will take you on a city tour through Utrecht and show you how you can make your village or city more walkable. More information can be found here.
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