Why Walking Matters | Conference Themes | Who Should Attend

 

WHY WALKING MATTERS

As the world moves towards greater urbanisation, we need to ensure that its mega-cities remain accessible for the people who would live, work and play in them. Worldwide, walkability improvement is increasingly being recognised not only as an important component in cities’ integrated mobility systems but also as a measure of and a means to enhance local quality of life and vitality, and to attract visitors and overseas talent. But this cannot emerge by chance: in high density urban environments, a strategic approach to walking is more necessary than ever!

 

Walking as an Emerging Policy Area in Asia and Hong Kong

At the centre of world economic activity, Asia experiences the pressures of population growth and rapid urbanisation perhaps more than any other region. Its cities and infrastructures continue to grow at a rate unmatched around the world, and with this growth has come immense change in the lifestyles and environments of its populace.

In Hong Kong, walking is a daily necessity as most journeys are made on public transport. It is an essential component of this archetypal high-density city, where millions of people move within a tightly limited space. As improving walkability and people-based planning have become global trends and aspirations in recent years, and as the social and economic benefits of walking have become apparent, Hong Kong’s Government has shown a growing policy interest in walkability, noting its potential to make our cities more resource-efficient, carbon-neutral, age-friendly and sustainable.

 

Hong Kong Leading the Way on Walkability

In his Policy Address and Policy Agenda for 2015, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive laid out plans to implement walkable districts and to improve the pedestrian environment within Hong Kong. The Government’s Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) has also initiated a number of projects across Kowloon Bay, Kwun Tong and the former Kai Tak airport that emphasise walkability and connectivity that capitalise on local expertise in infrastructure development.

More recently, Professor Anthony Cheung, Secretary for Transport and Housing, led a government delegation to Vienna in October 2015 and gave a keynote speech on the opening day of the Walk21 Vienna 2015 Conference, entitled “Fostering Mobility in a Compact City – Hong Kong’s Experience”.

One key point in his speech was the complimentary but important role of walking in Hong Kong’s transport strategy. He stated that “transport policy should factor in ‘walkability’ as complementary to the city’s overall mobility system through careful planning and provision of adequate pedestrian facilities.” All in all, he showed that the government’s policy is increasingly to emphasise the needs of pedestrians in finding ways to improve people’s quality of life and build an age-friendly city.

 


 

WALK21 - BRING HIGH-DENSITY ASIAN & INTERNATIONAL CITIES TOGETHER

Walk21 Hong Kong will bring together the policy makers, business leaders, professionals, and community opinion leaders who drive such strategies from different, fast-growing, high-density cities in Asia and all over the world. The conference will promote the recognition of best practices through sharing of experiences, discussion and networking.

 

Hong Kong - A Testbed for Liveable Density

Walking is an essential component of high-density cities like Hong Kong, where moving a lot of people within limited space is essential and challenging. Hong Kong has a compact built environment packed with skyscrapers and building layers, mixed land use and a 24/7 stream of people and goods along its short network of roads. Its dense skyline and urban morphology are iconic.

With 90% of journeys completed on public transport, the critical first- and last-mile connections are made on foot. Participants in Walk21 HK will directly experience its multi-layered pedestrian networks running through public and private domains, recognise what works and what does not, and take away inspiration from the Hong Kong experience in planning cities for our future.

 

FOUR CONFERENCE THEMES:

1. Walking Between Layers: creating a walkable environment in vertical cities

Hong Kong is a dense and compact Asian city, highly motivated by efficiency and round-the-clock convenience. Thanks to the integration of a comprehensive public transport system with mixed land use and widespread pedestrian networks, Hong Kong has a wealth of experience to share in planning and implementing walkable cities. There are plentiful examples of good walkability to be found in its many footbridges and pedestrian tunnels connecting buildings, public amenities and transport nodes.

Yet there is also a clear legacy of car-based planning, with investments in motorised modes of transport, (both private and public), vehicle parking, road design and freight management prioritised over pedestrian movement and urban walkability. This leads to challenges in pedestrian way-finding, permeability, crowding, detours, elevation changes, and street aesthetics. Every city will have ample examples of how different urban policy and implementation frameworks, with their varying budgets and priorities, have resulted in walking environments of differing quality.

Walk21 HK allows the comparison of experiences in different cities and draws awareness to their successes and failures, obstacles and enablers - both physical and institutional - in creating truly walkable cities of the future.


2. Walking with Multiple Benefits: creating an age-friendly, socially inclusive, safe, low-carbon and resilient environment

For urban residents, walking is not just a choice - a means to develop better health - but a necessity. And for the elderly and those with disabilities, environmental constraints can limit their access to services, family and friends. Providing communities with walkable environments enriches social life, strengthens community bonding, and supports local businesses. Improved accessibility and public space enhance the well-being of everyone, especially lower-income groups and the elderly.

The demographic challenge of ageing populations is faced by urban communities across Asia and the world. In shifting agendas from mega- to human-scale infrastructure, cities can focus on the "co-benefits" of walking, provide age-friendly facilities, enhance local accessibility and connectivity, promote better mobility for all, offer safe and high-quality street environments, improve air quality at street-level and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Walk21 HK aims to discover and highlight initiatives and policies which have been proven to deliver health and social benefits and inclusive communities. We enable the sharing of how these are articulated, institutionalised and delivered in different communities around the world.


3. Walking Smart: using information and technology to enhance walking

Walk21 HK will showcase the modelling and managing of pedestrian flows, and the moving of people through different layers of networks in high-density cities and large developments.

New technologies - integrating our phones, tablets and even our clothing - offer new opportunities in achieving this walkability and accessibility. These technologies help to plan journeys, encourage new walking habits and allow residents and visitors alike to discover new options in unfamiliar places. Insights from these interactions can help further drive improvement and innovation in walking experiences. With the technologies which now surround us, information can empower both the planners and the public.

Walk21 HK aims to explore the impact of technology in enabling walking and enhancing walkability, both at a physical and contextual level, and the ways in which integrating "smart" elements into urban settings has changed the modern walking experience.


4. Walking Together: nurturing partnerships and dialogue among policy makers, business leaders, local communities and stakeholders

Creating walkable cities is a multidisciplinary endeavour across a broad spectrum of stakeholder needs and intentions. Disciplines such as planning, development, construction, finance, governance, health, transport, information technology, tourism and climate change all need to come together to create the sustainable cities of the future. Interaction and partnership between policy makers and professionals, as well as direct engagement with local communities, can deliver better walkability and better cities with far-reaching consequences for economies and society.

Walk21 HK aims to facilitate dialogue amongst city mayors, business leaders, professionals and opinion leaders of all backgrounds on walking and the walkability of our future cities.

 


 

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?     

 

Government officials related to mobility policy, transit-oriented development policy, and clean-air policy
Transport operators who care for transit-oriented development and better mobility access
Property developers who would benefit from better urban design and mobility connection
Financial advocates who work on local community economic growth
Tourism promotion agencies who pledge for better walking facilities
Technology service providers and engineers who generate innovative solutions to enhance walkability and mobility connections
Healthcare practitioners and researchers who understand how walking benefits the creation of better health and well-being
Urban planning, transport planners, place-makers who integrate walking as part of mobility policy especially in the first-mile and last-mile of transit journeys
Multilateral agencies and advocacy groups who pledge for walkability and walking as part of mobility policy