Walking is widely recognised as good for health and for the environment, yet many short journeys in urban areas continue to be undertaken by car. This paper draws on research from a large multi-method project to analyse the factors that limit walking for everyday travel. It is argued that although most people see walking in a positive light, and almost everyone walks on some occasions, as an activity it remains barely visible within society, and is rarely recognised in the planning of urban infrastructure. Our research shows that under current urban conditions constraints imposed by family and life-style factors, perceptions of safety and convenience, and expectations about what means of everyday travel are normal severely restrict levels of walking for many people. We argue that while low levels of walking for particular purposes, especially leisure and health, are common and expected, walking is rarely seen as a visible or viable form of everyday transport. To step outside of these norms of expectation by walking more is constructed as unusual behaviour, and the fact that a substantial amount of walking does take place on urban streets is barely acknowledged. We argue that there is need to recognise fully the walking that exists, and to plan more effectively to accommodate pedestrians so that walking is perceived as an expected way of moving around urban areas.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal of Transport and Health 1 (4), 2014, © ELSEVIER.