By joining the network, the municipality is committing to encouraging more and more citizens to walk around the city instead of using a car.
Loulé City Council formally joined the “Network of Cities and Towns that Walk” through a protocol signed with the Institute of Cities and Towns with Mobility (ICVM) last Thursday, December 14.
The network’s flag was raised at the town hall, symbolising the municipality’s commitment to encouraging more and more citizens to walk around the city instead of using a car.
In addition to benefiting individuals, especially in terms of health, this initiative will also contribute towards improving the quality of urban life, with a reduction in CO2 emissions and associated traffic and parking problems.
This project brings many benefits, from improving public health to the local economy benefiting local commerce. But also strengthening socialisation in public spaces, for example, with the return of the “school route”, accessibility for all citizens, the “friendliness” of the city and urban areas and, naturally, contributing to mitigating climate change.
Walking is not a novelty in Loulé. On the contrary, “it is part of the community’s DNA. Walking has been a deep-rooted practice in Loulé’s cultural citizenship for many years. Loulé residents go out, walk, socialise, talk. This is in the DNA of modern, democratic Loulé, post-April 25th”, highlighted Loulé Mayor Vítor Aleixo, adding that citizens give a lot of importance to exercising and walking around the city.
Loulé is now the 41st city to join the network, but many other municipalities are about to join. The programme, coordinated by the ICVM, is part of an international agreement with the “Red Ciudades que Caminan” (Network of Cities that Walk), directed by the Mayor of Pontevedra, Miguel Lores, bringing together more than 100 municipalities in Spain. Interestingly, Loulé is one of two Portuguese municipalities to join it. The Portuguese network was created to establish a platform for sharing experiences and solutions that constitute examples of good urban practices in terms of sustainable, smooth and active mobility.
The project aims to guarantee work development for more qualified and inclusive cities, where walking is intended to become the most important mode of travel. President of the Institute, Paula Teles, considers this “a motto for planning, designing and building social mobility territories”.
At a time when data points to the highest-ever rate of people driving cars, as well as the highest number of road accidents, these are also the leading cause of infant and adolescent mortality. According to Teles, “spending a lot of time in the backseat of their parent’s car also brings other problems for children”, such as “neurological disorders, high levels of obesity or lack of self-defence and self-esteem”, she says.
60% of journeys made by car are less than 3 km, “this also happens in Loulé,” noted Teles, for whom walking could “largely contribute to mitigating environmental problems”.
“It is by walking that we experience places, and there are those who say that it is by walking that we make the biggest decisions”, she further pointed out.
The network is designed to provide skills and knowledge. “It is a place where, together, everyone can do more and better”, says network coordinator Pedro Ribeiro.
Actions planned within the scope of the network include working on successful experiences, carrying out certified training sessions for local authority technicians at national and international levels, participating in seminars and conferences and exchanging information on urban models and means of intervention. So far, these actions have counted around 200 participants.
Enthusiastic about these upcoming exchanges, Vítor Aleixo reaffirmed that this protocol is part of the “densification of a municipal management that has as its strategic axis not only walking but also cycling, widening pavements, making the city more accessible to people with conditioned mobility, planting more trees”, among other initiatives that aim to “put people at the centre of the cities”.