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ESRC seminar series ‘Capital Designs: Women and Planning in Contemporary London’ convened by the London Women and Planning Forum

Walking in the City

Date and time: Wednesday 24 November2004, 2-5 pm
Venue: Queen Mary, University of London.
Social Science Suite, 6th Floor, Physics Building (registration in Physics foyer)

Many areas of London are dominated by traffic. London has suffered from an historic neglect of the pedestrian and there is an urgent need to create a balance between people and traffic. Since women are more likely than men to walk and to use public transport, any improvements in negotiating the city without a car will be of particular importance to them. But experiencing the city involves much more than a matter of getting from A to B. Diverse cultural traditions of exploring the city on foot have raised questions of access, safety and freedom for women through visual art, writing and performance.

This seminar is the first in the ESRC-funded series ‘Capital Designs: Women and Planning in Contemporary London,’ which will be convened by the London Women and Planning Forum from 2004 – 2006. The seminar will focus on the gendered implications of the Mayor’s aims for London to become one of the most walking-friendly cities by 2015. Papers and workshops will explore the implications for women of the Walking Strategy for Central London proposed by the Central London Partnership (CLP), the Walking Plan developed by Transport for London (TfL), and artistic traditions and practices of women walking in the city.

CLP and TfL have called for the better use of London’s parks and squares, improving conditions for cycling and walking and increasing the amount of street space for non-car use. According to CLP ‘More than one million people enter central London in the morning peak time each working day and at least part of everyone of those journeys is made on foot and 40% of all journeys are made entirely on foot’. Research by CLP shows that people’s experiences of walking in the centre of London are not pleasant, but also that there is a lack of knowledge and appreciation of how easy it is to walk to places. One of the main priorities identified in the Walking Strategy is the improvement of pedestrian access by provision of convenient interchanges and good quality walkways, wide enough to cope with large numbers of people.

The pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square shows how, by creating the right conditions, people can be encouraged to spend more time in public spaces and more time walking. According to the Living Streets Campaign, encouraging walking benefits cities in many ways: walking improves individual health and it brings people together, which in turn helps make isolated places safer, particularly for women, older people, and people with disabilities.

The seminar will examine the significance for women of policy initiatives and artistic interventions concerned with walking in London. The seminar aims:

1. to investigate the gendered implications of current initiatives, particularly in terms of access, safety and the use of public space;
2. to link policy initiatives to artistic and cultural traditions of women walking in the city;
3. to explore the place of women with children, older women, and women with disabilities in policy initiatives and artistic interventions.

Speakers:
Patricia Brown, Chief Executive of the Central London Partnership who will focus on the ‘Walking Strategy for Central London 2003’
Andrea Phillips, Assistant Director, MA Curating at Goldsmiths College, who has examined the relationship between ethics, aesthetics and urban topography via the work of contemporary artists including Bruce Nauman, Francis Alÿs, Bas Jan Ader, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Carey Young in her work on walking in the city.
David Rowe, Surface Transport Director, Transport for London, who will talk about the Walking Plan.
Elizabeth Wilson, Professor Emeritus, London Metropolitan University, will act as discussant.

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by Edward Oliver. © Queen Mary, University of London 2007
Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8200, Fax: +44 (0)20 8981 6276