What springs to mind when you think about footpaths?
Do you consider they are just a means to an end?
Do you find enjoyment in observing your surrounds as you walk/ride along a footpath?
Generally footpaths are associated with physical activity.
The Heart Foundation maintains that physical activity “is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The simple act of walking for 30 minutes a day or more can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as half” [Heart Foundation, Creating Healthy Neighbourhoods 2011].
In the global arena, it has been argued that the more walkable cities / neighbourhoods [those with high walkability ratings] not only comprise on average healthier people but also lead to significantly lower levels of CO2 emissions compared with cities / neighbourhoods with lower walkability scores [Ted Talks TedCity 2.0 September 2013].
Footpath character is a key element in walkability assessment. Other factors identified by the Heart Foundation and others, include safety, connectivity, accessibility / convenience, complexity / variety / interest, human scale and pedestrian focus.
The walkability rating is not only concerned with the end / purpose but also the journey. The journey along a footpath / sidewalk is described by Jane Jacobs as ‘all composed of movement and change and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to a dance … The ballet of a good city sidewalk [footpath] never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations’ [Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities 1961 p50].
Of course, the footpath design is an important ingredient.