Glossary of Commonly Used Walking Terms

Active frontage. This is a street that is interesting to walk along. This can include regular doors or windows and other points of interest like cafés, garden beds, and seating. People prefer to walk in these areas, rather than long, blank and boring walls (passive frontages). It is not easy to improve a blank wall, but planting or a mural can help.  

Active transport. This term covers mainly walking and riding bikes, but also includes devices like skateboards, mobility scooters, scooters and e-mobility devices such as electric scooters.

Casual surveillance is people observing what’s happening on the street or in the park, without specifically watching. This can be from cafés, houses and offices where windows or balconies have been built overlooking streets. A safe neighbourhood is one that has casual surveillance throughout the day.

CPTED. Pronounced “septed”, this acronym of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is the idea that we can reduce crime and anti-social behaviour by designing our cities better. This includes features like:

  • Encouraging walking and cycling traffic. By providing “eyes on the street” you reduce the opportunity for casual crime. This is called casual surveillance.
  • Casual surveillance is people being able to see what’s happening in the local area from footpaths, their homes, cafés or shops.
  • Not providing places for someone to hide, such as badly situated walls or bushes.
  • Providing sufficient street lighting.
  • Providing options for people to walk, rather than narrow alleys with no escape routes.
  • Ensuring fences aren’t too high or can be easily seen through.
  • Having transparent walls or windows at bus stops.
  • Having an interesting streetscape where people prefer to walk, rather than a bland, featureless wall.

Desire lines are the paths that people prefer to walk, whether or not a paved footpath is provided. They are most visible when a footpath isn’t provided, but the worn away paths through the grass provide a clear indication of the (often) shorter and desired route.

Shared space is an approach that minimises or removes segregation between different road users. By removing features such as kerbs, markings, and traffic signs, this reduces certainty and encourages car drivers to slow and pay attention to other road users, usually by making eye contact with them. In Queensland, a car driver must give way to people walking or riding within areas marked as shared space. 

Walk-friendly means how friendly or welcoming an area is to walk. A footpath can be walkable if it’s sufficiently smooth and wide, but to be walk friendly, it needs things like shade from the sun, or a place to stop and rest, or something of interest to look at, or the presence of others to make people feel safe, or ease of crossing the road, or connections to shops or schools.

Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walk. There is no fixed score out of 10, but most people can tell you how comfortable they feel walking there.

Walkable. A place where people of all ages and abilities can easily walk.

Walking. Planners often use the word walking to include people walking, using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and now e-mobility, which includes scooters and other devices. Queensland Walks supports all active modes, but encourages local government to provide space for our most vulnerable walkers and separate faster moving devices to a space off the footpath. 

(Walking) catchment. This is the distance most people are willing to walk to a destination. For example, most people will walk 400m (5 minutes) to a bus stop, but most people will walk 800m (10 minutes) to a train station. It’s a rule of thumb as some people are happy to walk further and others unable or unwilling to walk that far.

Wayfinding is the way we find and choose our way, especially in unfamiliar environments. It includes obvious things like signs, and less obvious things like architecture and design of buildings and paths.  It can also include things like distances to destinations and affirmation that you’re going the right way.

Wayfinding guidelines: Department of Transport and Main Roads

Other Wayfinding links:

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