Derek Christie holds Master’s degrees in biology, statistics and public health. He acquired experience in human behaviour by working in the fields of tobacco control and reproductive health. His interest in transport dates back to 1996, when he joined the Swiss Association for transport and environment (www.ate.ch) where he became chairman at the Geneva level, then vice-chairman at the federal level. In 2011, he joined the Laboratory of urban sociology at the EPFL University in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he is working on mode choice, with a special interest for public transport patronage and walking.

Walking for Transport in Zurich and Geneva, 2000-2010

As a cheap and efficient alternative to motorised transport, walking for transport (not to be confused with walking for leisure) is gaining interest for a host of economic, environmental and public health reasons. Research in this field has been hampered by a lack of specificity: walking is often lumped together with other modes under headings such as ‘soft mobility’ (mobilité douce), ‘non-motorised transport’ or ‘sustainable transport’ and is generally not considered as a real transport mode.

Here we present preliminary findings from the Swiss national survey on transport, which took place in 2010. Concentrating on the two largest cities in the country, Zurich and Geneva, we investigated how modal split for short trips is distributed along demographic and socioeconomic strata (who walks, where and why?). By including data from a similar study carried out in 2000, we were able to estimate the evolution of walking for transport for these two urban areas.

At a general level, results show that walking has maintained but not increased its modal share in the urban areas under consideration. Walking appears to have difficulty in conquering its place within the urban transport cocktail. This is surprising for three reasons: increased interest for living in renovated city centres, continued growth in levels of cycling and public transport patronage, and considerable investment by local authorities to convince their inhabitants and visitors to walk more.