Maps, walking and public spaces

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After re-reading an earlier post of ours on walkability, I came across the Communities of Foot programme in Edmonton, Canada.

The authorities have sent a new walking map to 13,000 residents in the north of the city to encourage them to explore their local area on foot.

It’s a project based on the belief that people will be more likely to explore their own backyard if they have a guide telling them where they can travel. That, in turn, can provide tremendous advantages to both individuals and entire communities.

“It’s a great tool to get people more engaged and connected in their communities and learn what’s special about them.” [Ian Hosler, manager of the city’s Walkable Edmonton program]

Having people on the streets convinces other residents that the area is safe, and soon they join the crowd. With so many eyes and ears around, criminals will become discouraged and move on.

Source: Edmonton Journal

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This approach chimes with work done by Yellowfields and City ID in the UK. They have designed walking maps for various areas in London, as well as Southampton, Bath and Newcastle.

An extract from the ‘planner’ mapping used on miniliths and monoliths - Yellowfields

An extract from the ‘planner’ mapping used on miniliths and monoliths - Yellowfields

Walking maps can have various uses, but generally, they all promote a healthy lifestyle, discovery, exploration and a sense of place.

Essentially, they exist to:
– Produce economic well being and economic growth in area
– Attract inward investment
– Give competitive regional advantage
– Produce social well being/improves quality of life
– Develop partnership between private & public sector
– Encourage corporate social responsibility
– Provide sustainable investment for ongoing capital projects / services
– Create a positive sense of place and enhanced feeling of safety and well-being

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How this approach might form part of a bigger picture is illustrated by Bath and North East Somerset Council’s ‘Public realm and movement strategy’.

It explicitly makes a explicit connection between increasing car use and a decline in ‘the quality and experience of Bath city centre’.

And goes on say that,

Bath should become the UK’s most walkable city, and the public realm should be viewed as the canvas upon which a healthier, more vibrant and inclusive public life, a more dynamic and more successful economic life, and a more distinctive and creative brand identity for the city can be established.

Part of the strategy involved a new wayfinding and city information system that City ID were involved in.

There’s also a wider European context to all this. The Cities Regain Identity and Image project, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, included a Legible City component covering identity, orientation, navigability and health and well being. Bristol was the lead partner in this.

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If this is all sounding a little too centrally organised (‘You will walk in these areas and you will enjoy them’) then here’s a intriguing story about people gaining access to hidden public spaces in San Francisco.

Scattered across the centre of San Francisco are almost seventy semi-secret spaces, privately owned but open to the public. Subject to the fine print of a little-known pact between City and Commerce, these so-called POPOS (Privately Owned Public Open Spaces) allow alluring vistas of San Francisco and access to its intimate interiors.

However, they are often poorly indicated – perhaps a deliberate tactic by the private companies who own the spaces to prevent the pesky public from using them. Accessing POPOS sometimes even requires walking past security guards, or through unmarked doors. No wonder many are underfrequented.

Until there’s a map, you just don’t know some places exist. So here it is.

POPOS map - San Francisco

POPOS map - San Francisco

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One Response to “Maps, walking and public spaces”

  1. Georgia Says:

    Found your blog via Tokyo Green Space. We also wrote about San Francisco’s POPOS. Actually, a family member provided us with a very short review of a tour. http://localecologist.blogspot.com/2009/09/self-guided-tour-of-privately-owned.html

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