Creating a walkable city

Colonial planners got it right when they widely adopted five-foot ways, nicely indented into streetside buildings, to ensure shade and shelter for pedestrians. These were reprised only selectively later, as at Shenton Way's office buildings. More's the pity. Far more aesthetically pleasing than some modern sheltered walkways, this feature might have helped to embed walkability as an essential aspect of urban spaces here - to reduce heavy dependence on motorised transport and promote pedestrian-friendly streetscapes.

Other cities have long embraced the peripatetic pleasures of the oldest form of transport that all can savour. Paris and Vienna have charming sidewalks, Cape Town offers waterfront trails, and New York City turned a disused elevated railway line from its industrial past into a popular, green walkway, the High Line.

Singapore missed opportunities earlier to create a more walkable environment but is making up for this now. The vision of a "car-lite" country in the updated Sustainable Singapore Blueprint highlights the merits of walking, along with other modes of moving around like cycling and electric car-sharing. To help in this effort, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority, together with two institutes, are to study walking habits and map walkways in the city centre.

Key challenges are the integration of diverse efforts and the support of different stakeholders like building owners and transport operators. Connectivity is crucial to help change commuter preferences. People should be able to walk and ride effortlessly; use pavements, aerial walkways and underground links seamlessly; and avoid obstacles, detours and route confusion routinely. Going underground is costly but URA offers grants to assist pedestrian-oriented businesses. It's time more showed readiness to walk the walk.

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