Walking (and cycling) to change the city
Contemporary city is mainly designed and managed in order to meet drivers' needs (and those of their vehicles!). (Alagia, Chiusaroli 2000; Viale 2007; Ward 1978)
And since there is an unsolvable conflict between drivers' and pedestrians' needs (and cyclists, skaters, runners, ... needs too), we can say that contemporary city is not capable of ensuring the right of pedestrians (and cyclists) to safely and freely walk (and to safely and freely cycle). (Illich 2006; Labbucci 2011; Viale 2007)
Urban traffic congestion has a number of negative effects: road accidents, air pollution, noise pollution, time wastage, privatization of public spaces, limitation of the right of pedestrians (and cyclists) to walk (and to cycle). All these negative effects cause a significant reduction of everyday quality of life for everyone: both people who use car and people who cannot or does not want to. (Alagia, Chiusaroli 2000; Viale 2007)
Urban planning has to guarantee the right to actually "use" the city for every and each individual, including pedestrians (and cyclists).
To achieve this goal it is necessary to make policies aimed at reducing the overall number of cars. The engagement of people (voluntary, aware and responsible) is essential to make these policies work.
Therefore, urban planning has to deal with this issue: how can social learning be effectively enhanced to promote a cultural change in mobility behaviour?
Until now, urban planning has mainly referred to reasons of environmental sustainability. (Viale 2007)
Results are not satisfactory. Most Italian cities are still hostile to pedestrians (and cyclists), especially to the most vulnerable groups: children, elderly people, disabled people, etc.
Perhaps, reasons of environmental sustainability are not much effective because of their individualistic nature and since they refer especially to long term effects of actions. (Elster 1993; Illich 2006; Viale 2007)
Urban planning probably should concentrate more on reasons of the right to the city.
There are people who choose to be pedestrians (or cyclists) for reasons of the right to the city: they walk (or cycle) to interfere with established urban design and management, in order to claim their right to "use" the city.
Their main goal is to free the streets and the public spaces from cars and to bring them back to pedestrians (and cyclists).
People who promote and participate in collective initiatives like Critical Mass, Walking School Bus, Parking Day, etc. can be considered part of this category.
In this paper, we will try to explain why and how referring to assumptions and characteristics of these collective initiatives of re-conquest of the streets and the spaces of the city (public on paper, but private de facto) can be useful to make more effective policies aimed at building walkable (and cyclable) cities.
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