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Accra walkability

Capturing stakeholder’s knowledge, voices, and experiences toward a walkable city

Given the opportunity, African urban residents would love to walk, yet their cities are typically constrained by the lack of walkable features. For the most part, disadvantaged populations and those living in low-income and informal settlements face challenging tasks navigating the precarious walking environments. The absence of walkable features to promote accessibility, pleasureability, and safety in the walking environment is counterintuitive and reactive to the strives to achieve sustainable urbanism. The poor walking conditions in African cities could be blamed on the prioritization of motorable transport over non-motorable transport mediums. Improving conditions in African cities to be pedestrian friendly will protect minority populations such as women, children, aged, and the disabled the precarious walking conditions.

Our study sought to bring together multiple urban actors to produce knowledge on the conditions practices and knowledge of the walking environment in two neighborhoods in Accra, Ghana.

 

The voices of captive walkers and the reactive posture of city authorities

Our study brought together a total of two institutional and community actors in a stakeholder consultative meeting to germinate knowledge and strategies to improve the walking environment. Municipal authorizes in the professionals of urban planners, road and work engineers, as well as community members to engage in a fruitful dialogue imminent to addressing the precarious walking conditions in the study communities. This was done to also share the results of the study with them, which informed the discussions and the required policy interventions. The first step involved developing a walkability database using maptionnaire software to inform planning for interventions to the walking environment. The second step involved the review of various policy documents on transport and urban planning in Ghana, to diagnose the gaps and opportunities for walking.

 

This was followed by interviews with community leaders and opinion leaders about their experiences regarding accessibility, pleasurebility a safety risks in the communities. In the next step, interviews with institutional representatives were drawn from the municipal assemblies, urban roads, and the physical planning department.  The essence of the workshop was also to bridge the gap between academia, community, and industry and ensure that research findings achieve societal impacts, especially in African cities such as Accra, Ghana.

The maps developed for the geodatabase were shared with municipal authorities and community residents to guide walkability planning interventions in the communities.

The stakeholder engagement gave the platform for community residents to ask questions about the challenges they encounter in the walking environment, while the municipal official also had the opportunity to explain to them the bureaucratic processes and funding challenges characterizing municipal planning programs. Community members were appreciative of the explanations but wished that issues about walkability would be given some quality and immediate attention.

As academics, we have developed a continuous and healthy community engagement relationship with municipal officials and community residents to ensure that research findings are considered in municipal development plans especially for designing walkability features.    

 

Key takeaways for policy and practice towards the provision of interventions for the walking environments

Drawing on previous studies, the results from the stakeholder meeting show that residents navigated precarious walking environments to meet their daily socioeconomic needs. For the most part, the roads and walking part in the communities lacked pedestrian-friendly features such as zebra crossing, road ramps, and shade for resting. Moving forward and ensuring that the walking environment meets the needs of both pedestrians and motor users, our study offers three policy ramifications to tackle the challenges of walkability in the study communities.

  • First, planning for non-motorized transport mobility options in low-income settings should target the needs of varying population groups such as women, children, the disabled, and the aged.

  • Second, the municipal development and action plans should prioritize issues on walkability such as the provision of zebra crossing, road ramps, traffic lights with pedestrian crossing indicators, and the construction of pedestrian walkways.

  • Lastly, we recommend continuous engagement between municipal staff such as urban planners, road and works engineers, and residents of local communities to address issues and concerns of accessibility, safety and pleasurability. This will ensure that walkability interventions provided by municipal staff are fit for purpose.

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