Sticky streets keep walkers on right path

Kent Acott Vancouver

Streets need to be sticky.

That doesn't mean chewing gum on the footpaths but creating places where people want to stop and linger. It is the obvious evolution to encouraging more people to walk.

Former Vancouver city planner Brent Toderian, who oversaw planning related to the Winter Olympics in 2010, believes sticky streets are fundamental to creating interesting and attractive communities and neighbourhoods.

And, Mr Toderian said, creating streets "that people can linger in and enjoy rather than just move through" can have economic benefits for local traders.

"Streets are not just for moving cars - they should be for moving people," he said. "Vancouver's deliberate prioritisation of walking, biking and public transport means more people are moving through our streets in transport modes other than cars.

"The next evolution of this thinking is to create 'sticky' streets for people to enjoy and linger and not just move through.

"A street is sticky if, as you move along, you're constantly enticed to slow down, stop and enjoy the public life around you.

"Things like patio dining, food carts, attractive seating, street performers or just lively store windows that draw a crowd can contribute to making a street more 'sticky'."

Mr Toderian said Vancouver had managed to achieve these "sticky" spaces in many areas including the former Olympic Village and around the inner-city Convention Centre, where provision was made for pedestrians, cyclists, restaurants and bars.

Besides the obvious benefits in helping traffic congestion and protecting the environment, walking has already begun to have health benefits for the people of Vancouver.

According to National Heart Foundation (WA) cardiovascular health director Trevor Shilton, Vancouver's obesity rate stands at 17.4 per cent, compared with Perth's 28.1 per cent.

"We know there is a direct link between walking and cycling and obesity levels," Mr Shilton said. "And we know that a city that is well designed and encourages high levels of physical activity is going to have healthier citizens."

An important aspect of Vancouver's transport strategy has been the move towards increased residential density along key public transport routes.

This has resulted in a concept known as "Vancouverism" - a style of urban planning characterised by mixed-use developments with a commercial podium base and high-rise residential towers set back from the street.

This tower-and-podium design increases the light to the street and provides space for shops.