Walking as a positive activity: Plings meets a walking activist

Spitalfields part VI (by wili_hybrid)

Everywhere we read about emerging crises: obesity, social isolation and mental health, the demonising of youth, dysfunctional urban places and spaces to name just a few. Walking is frequently offered up as part of the solution” ~ Andrew Stuck, Managing Consultant, Rethinking Cities

Andrew Stuck is a walking activist. Plings was intrigued by the idea of walking activism, so we cornered Andrew after a recent Talk the Walk event he organised on how to get young people more engaged in walking. We started by asking him what it means to be a walking activist.

“I guess I am one of those. I am passionate about the benefits of walking and strive in life and through my work to get more people out walking.”

Talk the Walk

What is Talk the Walk about?

“Talk the Walk brings professionals from the worlds of climate change, play, health, housing, public space design and transport together,” Andrew said.

“Talk the Walks are networking events for professionals working to promote more walking – I try to bring people from different disciplines together to see if we can get some connections and make the world a better place for those on foot.”

The most recent Talk the Walk focused on Childhood, Play and Independent Mobility, and explored how local neighbourhoods can be re-created so children, young people and families can play and move independently. Andrew explained what happened at the event.

“Most of the discussion was weighted towards transport and journey to schools although there was some discussion about public realm management and street design.

“The conflict between government policies to encourage walking on the one hand and yet offering parental choice of schools was one issue often touched upon.”

Can walking be a positive activity?

Let's Walk (by Hamed Saber)According to Andrew, walking is part of the solution to a myriad of modern problems faced by young people today. Surely these are good grounds to see walking as a positive activity? After all, most of walking that young people do takes place in their leisure time. And walking contributes to the Every Child Matters outcome of being healthy.

However, Andrew believes that seeing walking as a positive activity is a misnomer.

“I think this is a red herring,” he said. “The majority of young people have no option but to walk.

“Our society has accepted the car as the preferred means of transport and has planned our towns in such a way that those without access to a car are put at a disadvantage.”

Of course, positive activities are, by definition, organised activities. So has anyone tried organising a walking activity?

Andrew mentions Living Streets, who have created an urban street game to encourage 11-18 year olds to walk to school.

He also points out that outdoor activity groups, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Scouts, and Guides, often include walking, although usually only as part of a wider programme of activities.

Other than that, “there is very little else out there.”

Why is this? What are the main barrier for organising walking events for young people?

Andrew answers briefly, and to the point. “Cars and inconsiderate adults.”

Given this problem, we asked him what local authorities can do to encourage walking as a positive activity.

“Improve access to public transport and devise ways in which they give back public realm to pedestrians from dominance by the car.”

Finally, we asked Andrew to describe an ideal walking activity for young people.

“Anything that offers adventure, exploration and discovery would be good, and anything that provides an opportunity of showing off,” he said.

“The old adage is ‘Get the girls interested and the boys will follow’.”

4 Comments Interviews Permalink

4 Responses to Walking as a positive activity: Plings meets a walking activist

  1. stevieflow says:

    Most interesting

    I would guess that walking to positive activities is something some people do, but as with the school run, could be less and less common?

    I note that services such as http://www.walkit.com are becoming more used and referenced by local authorities and transport initiatives, and we have started the discussion on how to link pling data to walking directions.

    Also worth checking out is the exhibition currently on at Salford Museum – Play Out. It recreates a pre-war street that was closed to traffic (which was obviously less then!) with some good background context about the growth, decline and recent slight growth in play streets. Runs till mid November – http://services.salford.gov.uk/events/viewevent.asp?id=3304

    Replyhttp://www.walkit.com are becoming more used and referenced by local authorities and transport initiatives, and we have started the discussion on how to link pling data to walking directions.\r\n\r\nAlso worth checking out is the exhibition currently on at Salford Museum – Play Out. It recreates a pre-war street that was closed to traffic (which was obviously less then!) with some good background context about the growth, decline and recent slight growth in play streets. Runs till mid November – http:\/\/services.salford.gov.uk\/events\/viewevent.asp?id=3304′); return false;”>Quote
  2. I love the thought of getting the girls out and all the boys will follow.

    We live up in the lake district and never has a truer word been spoken.

    At the local primary and secondary schools we have run competitions to encourage more use of our fells by the local children. We offered a Deuter Futura 32 rucksack from one of our local walking shops to the first to complete 5 named fells in the Lake District.

    It took nearly the whole summer for just one girl (!) to provide the information to win the rucksack!

  3. Karla Joss says:

    Good on you Andrew.

    I have become more of a walking activist. Out of frustration with local governments hear not doing enough or little to encourage walking especially with young people. Some areas are doing amazing work, most purely funded State projects especially encouraging walk to school behaviour to challenge the driving kids to school habit. In the future it would be good to see government make transport to school a priority, having schools take on board how their kids get to the place of education. Minimise parking directly to the school to encourage park and walk. Traffic congestion causes so much anger and frustration between parents and a safety issue for kids. Childhood obesity can be prevented just by taking steps every day. I would like to see all local governments take on the active travel issue in partnership with schools as a core business because the problem is not going away until we get the long term solution being: people realise we need to consider whether we really need to use the car for that short trip or not.

  4. Andrew Stuck says:

    Eldred & Karla

    Many thanks for your comments. I am not sure where you are from Karla but you may find the iwalktoschool.org website of some value. All the things you are talking about are only voluntary in England, and consequently many schools have only half – heartedly adopted sustainable transport initiatives. We also are under the policy flaw that government education policy offers choice of school, which often exacerbates the amount of vehicle traffic.

    Kind regards, Andrew

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