Local Government Magazine

Expert calls for more walkable cities

An AECOM specialist has warned against building too much infrastructure in some New Zealand cities saying that experience overseas shows ‘walkable’ cities are a much healthier and more viable alternative for both people and the environment.

Hong Kong-based Guy Perry is executive director, buildings and places, for the Asia Pacific Region.
He told NZ Local Government Magazine on a recent visit to this country that some New Zealand cities have already given over between 25 and 30 percent of their ground surface to transportation infrastructure.
“This is totally out of kilter because then the whole metric breaks down. It’s hard to walk anywhere anymore because you’ve already given away one third of your city to something that’s vehicularised.”
Guy says many overseas cities show alternative approaches are better for people and the environment.
Guy (pronounced ‘Gee’ in the French way) sees it as the duty of city leaders, planners, architects and everyone else involved in designing our urban lives, to scale fast-growing cities to real human needs.
He says designing to a human scale probably suggests a certain densification but it doesn’t mean Dubai or Hong Kong-type densification. “You can achieve very high density environments with four- or five-level buildings like in Barcelona. You don’t have to go to high rises.”
Among other measures, he refers to Walk Score which marks a set location out of 100. It tots up points for easy walkable access to amenities such as supermarkets, cafes, restaurants, schools, parks, public services and transport.
Places with a low walk score correlate with high levels of obesity and other major health problems among the people who live there, he says.
According to Guy, there’s also a “remarkable correlation” between places that are healthy for people and places that are low carbon.
“The beauty of it is that by focusing on our own wellbeing we’re focusing on the wellbeing of our planet.”
Gee met with local authorities and / or iwi in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch on his recent trip to New Zealand.

More in Local Government Magazine’s December 2015 issue.

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