Rotterdam, the walkable city

Rotterdam, the walkable city

The historic centre of Rotterdam had to be rebuilt after World War II. At the time, planners thought of the city centre not as a place to live, but as a place where people came to work and shop. As a result, many tall buildings were erected and wide roads were created for cars. In recent decades, however, city leaders have realised that this is unsustainable and have started to plan on a 'pedestrian-friendly', 'people-friendly' scale: they have started to develop cycling infrastructure, reduce car traffic, create new housing units, etc. 
Key factors in Rotterdam that have made walking attractive: Pedestrian-friendly pavements: the reconstruction of the city has left wide roads, allowing the creation of spacious pavements where people can walk comfortably. 

- Route planning: similar to the development of e.g. cycling infrastructure, pedestrian routes were assessed and conflict areas (e.g. obstacles to walking, problematic crossing points, areas of low public safety) were identified. They also identified the intersections that are the most frequent destinations for walking and paid particular attention to their surroundings in the design. The priority nodes could be mobility nodes, educational institutions, health centres, shopping areas, sports centres, green and recreational areas, river banks, etc. 
- Optimisation of traffic signals: traffic signals on pedestrian routes will support pedestrian and cyclist traffic. 
- Tall buildings with interesting ground floor: Unlike most Dutch cities, Rotterdam has very tall buildings. To make people want to walk through the streets, the lower floors of buildings need to be made attractive. The shops and cafés on the ground floor of new buildings in Rotterdam are a pleasure to walk past.
- Europe's first pedestrian street: the first pedestrian street in Lijnbaan was built in 1950, foreshadowing the future of car-free cities.
- Organising awareness-raising campaigns: regular walking can make a big difference to health, but not everyone is aware of this, which is why awareness-raising is important. A number of programmes are being organised to encourage residents to walk to work, to organise meetings outside while walking, and even "Walk to Work" days.
- Research: creating new data and research on the subject (e.g.: comparing walking with other modes of transport; creating a data set to help create walking routes and rest areas).
- Knowledge sharing: to ensure continuous improvement, a National Walking Platform has been set up, where various good practices are shared between the member cities and organisations. 

In 2020, Rotterdam produced its own Walkability Strategy (Rotterdam Walks 2025), which summarises its objectives for improving the walkability of the city.