Persistence of walking in Chile: lessons for urban sustainability

Persistence of walking in Chile: lessons for urban sustainability
AuthorGeraldine Hermann-Lunecke, Rodrigo Mora, Lake Sagaris
Line(s)Acces & Mobility
Year of Publication2020
Journal TitleTransport Reviews
Walking, walkability, urban planning, equity, Chile, Santiago
AbstractAn extensive body of work from the urban planning, health, and other disciplines has documented the importance of walking to urban sustainability from health, safety, security, environmental and other perspectives. These studies come mainly from countries in North America and Europe, where the majority of the population relies on cars for transportation. Notwithstanding, in many countries in the Global South, walking remains a majority transport mode, while cars increasingly dominate the urban streetscape, but are accessible only to a minority of the population. Chile provides fertile terrain for studying this phenomenon. This article reviews current practice and recent research of walking in Chile, in light of international findings regarding walkability, equity and urban sustainability. To elaborate an overview of the depth and breadth of walking in Chile, an interdisciplinary team conducted a literature review, examined relevant case study material from experience from Chile and in particular from Santiago, and triangulated this mainly qualitative data with results from the origin-destination survey applied in Chile’s main cities, Chilean traffic safety data) and results from official transport reports of other Latin American cities [Tirachini, A. (2019). South America: The challenge of transition. In J. Stanley & D. Hensher (Eds.), A research agenda for transport policy. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing]. Findings show that despite priority public investments that have largely prioritised infrastructure for cars, walking in Chile has remained as the majority transport mode up until today, especially for lower-middle income groups, and particularly for care-related tasks performed mainly by women. In this sense, walking in Chile has proven remarkably persistent. The importance of walking as the main transport mode, against the odds, reflects economic, cultural, and urban form determinants, which are explored in this article. Furthermore, a recent upsurge in public interest and community design initiatives to improve walking, particularly the generation of a Chilean approach to “complete streets” has emerged, opening up opportunities to challenge Chile’s version of automobility in favour of more equitable, active and public transportation modes. There is, therefore, in Chile an opportunity to prioritise the walking mode, improve infrastructure for walkers and build from preserving current high pedestrian modal shares, rather than having to reverse widespread car use, as occurs in many countries in Europe and North America. This potential is highly relevant as these conditions are similar to those in other Latin American cities and, potentially, other cities elsewhere in the Global South.
Corresponding AuthorGeraldine Hermann-Lunecke