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Paper presented to Walk21-V Cities for People, The Fifth International Conference on

Walking in the 21
Century, J une 9-11 2004, Copenhagen, Denmark
www.citiesforpeople.dk; www.walk21.com

The pedestrian and the city - a historical review, from the
Hippodamian city, to the modernistic city and to the sustainable
and walking-friendly city

S Olof Gunnarsson, Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden

Contact details:
S Olof Gunnarsson, Emeritus Professor, Urban and Traffic Planning,
Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden.


A review is given on the situation and the role of the pedestrian in European cities from
ancient times to the 20
century as a function of political and military strategies, of
technological progress, and of the influence of urban idealists and architectural protagonists. A
vision for a walking-friendly city is formulated where the pedestrian is the measure of the city.
The goal should be to bring back city spaces to the pedestrians and create a sustainable and
human city on foot, where the pedestrians can move freely and conveniently in a secure and
beautiful environment.

The pedestrian and the city - a historical review, from the
Hippodamian city, to the modernistic city and to the sustainable
and walking-friendly city

S Olof Gunnarsson, Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden

The development of urban design and street networks until the 20

The urban pattern, the streets and the status of pedestrians have varied during different periods
in the history - a function of political and military strategies, of technological progress, and of
the influence of urban idealists and architectural protagonists. The study is limited to European

The city model of Hippodamus
Hippodamus a Grecian, who died in 439 BC - is considered to be the first theorist in town
planning. He introduced the grid pattern street network, where the city of Miletus is the most
well-known - a city with straight streets in angles and a square (agora) in the middle of the
town. However there had been regular street patterns earlier, e.g. Kahun, a town constructed in
2 500 BC for the pyramid workers in Egypt.

The city model of Vitruvius
Marcus Pollio Vitruvius in 100 BC), the author of Ten Books on Architecture, designed an
ideal city with eight radial streets, not directly leading to the city centre, from defensive
military points of view. The idea was also to avoid adverse winds.

The city of Pompeii (destroyed in AD 79).
The streets had well-paved streets with sidewalks (with a width of 1-1.5 m and a height of 0.5-
0.6 m) and also stepping stones as pedestrian crossings.

Ancient Rome
The city had three types of streets: the itinera for pedestrians only, the actus for passage of
only one cart at a time, and the viae for passage of two carts abreast. However, the streets
became very crowded with continual conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles. In 50 BC
J ulius Caesar banned cargo carts during daytime, with the exception of the transport of
building material and official carts. The Roman satirist J uvenal (60-128 AD) told that the
regulation had a negative effect: people could not sleep depending on the heavy and noisy
traffic in the night hours. He also mentioned the problems of being a pedestrian: elbows,
pokes, treads on the crowded streets.

The medieval city
The medieval city had winding streets and cul-de-sacs, which were easily defended by swords.
The square was very important as a market place and meeting point.

Traffic separation according to Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci proposed in 1487 a city plan with two levels, the upper level for
pedestrians, the lower for vehicles. His idea was based not only on avoiding congestion for
pedestrians, but also on preventing the plague.

The renaissance city
The city pattern of the 16
century was based on military defence, e.g. Palma Nova in Italy.
The invention of firearms demanded straight streets and the grid pattern was introduced again,
recommended by Andrea Palladio among others. Giovanno Lorenzo Bernini proposed
adornment of squares and public places, e.g. Romes Piazza Navona.

London in the 1850s
London in the 1850s was crowded with many horse cabs and dirty from the smoke of steam
engines, illustrated by the French painter Gustave Dor. In 1865, the so called Red flag law
said that automotive vehicles should be driven at a maximum speed of 4 miles per hour, and a
man should walk in front of the vehicle with a red flag.

Urban surgery: Napoleon III and Haussmann in Paris in 1850-70
Napoleon III had an idea to make Paris as ancient Rome. Under the leadership of Georges
Eugne Haussmann, Paris was transformed by massive urban surgery by creating great
boulevards. The purpose was both military and commercial. A result of the
haussmannization was the establishment of more than 1100 km of sidewalks and planted
trees. The model influenced many other cities around the world, e.g. Vienna and Stockholm.

Moving sidewalks
A proposal to articulate moving platforms on wheels and a track was presented for New York
in 1874. A moving sidewalk was installed at the Worlds Columbian Exposition in 1893, and
also at the exhibition in Paris in 1900. It was a two-speed system to run at 3 and 6 mph. The
idea of moving platforms was the predecessor of pedestrian conveyors.

Modernism: the city and the pedestrian in the 20

Before 1850 the city was based on transport on foot and horses. The pedestrian was free to
walk on the street. The industrial revolution and the machine era changed the situation.
Pedestrians were more and more forced out of their place on the streets and in the squares, in
favour of giving space to cars, buses, and cyclists.

This period is characterised by a lot of ideas in urban design and street patterns. Table 1 and
Figure 1 give a summary of the different epochs, the town and street structure, and the role of
the pedestrians.

Well-known protagonists in urban design are among others:

Camillo Sitte (1889): City-Building according to Artistic Principles
Arturo Soria y Matta (1892): Linear City

Ebenezer Howard (1898): Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (The Garden
Tony Garnier (1917): The Industrial City (1917)
Le Corbusier (1922-25): City for Three Million People, Urbanism
Frank Lloyd Wright (1935): The Broadacre City adapted for automobiles
Clarence Stein, Henry Wright (1928): Radburn (with traffc separation)
Sir Patrick Abercrombie (1944): New Towns (with traffic separation)
Sir Buchanan (1963): Traffic in Towns
Ricardo Bofill, Rob and Leonard Krier (1970s): Postmodernism

Walking-friendly inventions

City arcades
The Roman harbour city of Ostia had ground-story arcades, often with shops. City arcades
were introduced in many European cities in the 15
century, e.g. in the city of Bern and in
Bologna. A visitor in Bern said in 1479 that there were archways to both sides of the street
under which one can wander about with dry feet.

The first over-decked street (gallery) seems to have been Burlington Arcade in London (1598-
1680). The Vittorio Emanuelle II street in Milan was covered in 1865-1877 by a proposal from
Giuseppe Mengoni.

Pedestrian streets and zones
Pedestrian malls in new areas were first introduced in Rotterdam (Lijnbaan) in 1950, and later
on in connection with city renewal projects, e.g. in Stockholm. Pedestrian streets and zones
were established in Germany in the 1950s, e.g. Cologne (Hohe Strasse), and in Copenhagen
in 1962 (Strget)

The woonerf concept
In the Netherlands, a special type of residential street - a woonerf, literally living yard-
was formulated by Professor Nick de Boer in 1963.

Walking aids
The rollator a 4-wheel device for helping walking and for sitting and carrying small
packages - was in general use in Sweden from 1980. A similar piece of equipment is the kick-
sledge in winter time.

Vision of a sustainable and walking-friendly city

The goal should be to bring back living spaces to the pedestrians and create a sustainable and
human city on foot, where the pedestrians can move freely and conveniently in a secure and
beautiful environment: the pedestrian should be the measure of the city.


1) Make priorities for pedestrians in urban renewal policies and programs for environment and

2) Bring back proximity and community through establishing community nodes for jobs,
service, social and cultural activities.

3) Organise urban space with regard to the need for accessibility, safety and security for
pedestrians and implement a walking route plan covering the whole city

4) Make guarantees for comfort, security and safety for pedestrians through traffic taming
measures, rights of way for pedestrians and through efficient maintenance of walkways.

5) Plan and implement measures through co-ordination between different authorities.

6) Promote research on the city and the pedestrians.

7) Finally, rouse public opinion for the sake of pedestrians and the need for more living space
for pedestrians: the pedestrian is the measure of the city!

Table 1 Review of town and street pattern related to the pedestrians during


Town and street pattern

Pedestrians and city traffic

1900 - 1920
High density areas
Ill health

Artistic city (Sitte)
Garden city (Howard)
Linear city (Soria y Mata)
Industrial city (Garnier)

Pedestrian, moving freely in
the streets
Horses and wagons
Urban railways, metros

Mass produced

Contemporary city (Le
Open blocks, greenbelts

Straight and broad streets
Pedestrians out of the street

World War II

Radburn (Stein, H Wright)
Broadacre city (Wright)
Neighbourhood (Mumford)

Separation of

Post war era

New Towns. ABC-City
City renewal with demolition

Pedestrian streets
Metro construction

Housing shortage
Car dependency
problems (Silent
Spring of Carson)

Satellite towns.
Traffic in towns (Buchanan)
Critics (J acobs, Gehl)

Children safety.
Traffic separation in new areas
Environmental capacity

(Brundtland report)

Postmodernism (Krier)
Waterfront development

Traffic calming and zoning
Bus streets

(Rio agenda)

Urban renewal

Grid patterns. Boulevards
Trams back
30 kph-zones
Mobility management


Sustainable, liveable city
Proximity and community

Vision: Pedestrian is the
Measure of the City

Figure 1 Review of urban design, pedestrians and traffic during the 19


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