The cartoon case for walkability

Anyone reading reviewanew would notice that I reckon walkability is important to make our cities and communities more civil, successful and sustainable places. Like this article here for example. It’s one of the reasons I volunteered to be the Brisbane coordinator for Jane’s Walk.

Part of the message is about what happens when, as in most Australian cities, car travel is prioritised over walking and other modes. Here is a good commentary about that from Brent Toderian.

Recently, I’ve noticed a couple of cartoons on the subject doing the rounds on social media, which use humour and drawings to graphically show what you get when pedestrians are treated as also-rans in the urban transport task.

The first one popular at present is this one from Dhiru Thadani, noted new urbanist, and resident and chronicler of Seaside:

I like it because it shows how we have built in prioritising the car when pedestrians and cars intersect: we expect the pedestrian, as the one likely to come off second best in any conflict with a car, to (as I’ve heard Jan Gehl say) apply for permission to cross the road. I feel it often, when I stand and push the button and then, usually, wait for quite a while before I’m allowed to cross. What if we did it the other way around?

I’m not sure of the author of the second one doing the rounds, but it does send a strong message about how we allocate our road space. We give strips of it along the edge to the pedestrian, and allow the car to go for it over the main part of the space and make this unsafe for people walking.
These made me wonder what a web search of similar cartoons would turn up. Actually there were quite a few! Here’s some of them:

This points up what the research shows us: walking and exercise tend to make us happier, sitting in traffic the opposite. Yet most of us still drive, and even feel sorry for those who aren’t.

This next one tells the priority story another way:

When it snows, we are geared up to clear the roads for cars first, and leave the pedestrians to fend for themselves. Not a problem in Brisbane, mind you – that’s one benefit of being in a subtropical climate!

Another one I was going to include used some unfortunate distracting language, so I’m not using the image itself. It was titled “Pedestrians cutting one another off”. The person cutting the other off says “oh, I do apologise for that, my dear sir” to which the one cut off says “no problem, handsome fellow, it was my fault. Carry on and do have yourself a marvellous day”. It does highlight how being isolated in our own metal capsule of the car makes us much less civil in how we interact. I really don’t like the term “road rage” because it seems to me to normalise anti social behaviour, but I hope you get my meaning. We just don’t interact like that when we are walking – it’s much more civil. I made that point here (see number 7).

And here is one last one, which does a great job of summarising the respective health and safety balance you get if you prioritise as we currently do:


Greg Vann
November 2014


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