A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot, whether walking or running. In some communities, those traveling using tiny wheels such as roller skates, skateboards, and scooters, as well as wheelchair users are also included as pedestrians. In modern times, the term mostly refers to someone walking on a road or sidewalk, but this was not the case historically.
Walking has always been the primary means of human locomotion. The first humans walked out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. They walked along the coast of India to reach Australia. They walked across Asia to reach the Americas, and from Central Asia into Europe.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, pedestrianism (walking) was a popular spectator sport just as equestrianism still is in places such as Great Britain and the United States. One of the most famous pedestrians of that period was Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, known as "The Celebrated Pedestrian", of Stonehaven in Scotland. His most impressive feat was to walk 1 mile (1.6 km) every hour for 1000 hours, which he achieved between 1 June and 12 July 1809. This feat captured many people's imagination, and around 10,000 people came to watch over the course of the event. During the rest of the 19th century, many people tried to repeat this feat, including Ada Anderson who developed it further and walked a half-mile (800 m) each quarter-hour over the 1,000 hours.
Since the 20th century, interest in walking as a sport has dropped. It is still an Olympic sport, but fails to catch public attention as it did. However major walking feats are still performed, such as the Land's End to John o' Groats walk in the United Kingdom, and the traversal of North America from coast to coast. The first person to walk around the world was Dave Kunst who started his walk travelling east from Waseca, Minnesota on 20 June 1970 and completed his journey on 5 October 1974 when he re-entered the town from the west. These feats are often tied to charitable fundraising and are undertaken by celebrities such as Sir Jimmy Savile and Ian Botham as well as by others.
Health and environment
Regular walking is important both for human health and for the natural environment. Frequent exercise such as walking tends to reduce the chance of obesity and related medical problems. In contrast, using a car for short trips tends to contribute both to obesity and via vehicle emissions to climate change: internal combustion engines are more inefficient and highly polluting during their first minutes of operation (engine cold start). General availability of public transportation encourages walking, as it will not, in most cases, take one directly to one's destination.
Footpaths and roads
Roads often have a designated footpath for pedestrian traffic, called the sidewalk in American English, the pavement in British English, and the footpath in Australian and New Zealand English. There are also footpaths not associated with a road; these include urban short cuts and also rural paths used mainly by ramblers, hikers, or hill-walkers. Footpaths in mountainous or forested areas may also be called trails. Pedestrians share some footpaths with horses and bicycles: these paths may be known as bridleways. Other byways used by walkers are also accessible to vehicles. There are also many roads with no footpath. Some modern towns (such as the new suburbs of Peterborough in England) are designed with the network of sidewalks and cycle paths almost entirely separate from the road network.
The term trail is also used by the authorities in some countries to mean any footpath that is not attached to a road or street. If such footpaths are in urban environments and are meant for both pedestrians and bicyclists, they can be called shared-use paths or multi-use paths in general and official usage.
Under British law, regardless of whether there is a footpath, pedestrians have the right to use most public roads, excluding motorways and some toll tunnels and bridges such as the Blackwall Tunnel and the Dartford Crossing. It is usually advised that pedestrians should walk in the opposite direction to oncoming traffic on a road with no footpath. However sharing roads with fast-moving traffic is highly dangerous.
In California the definition of a pedestrian has been broadened to include anyone on any human powered vehicle that is not a bicycle, as well as people operating self-propelled wheelchairs by reason of physical disability.
Efforts are under way by pedestrian advocacy groups to restore pedestrian access to new developments, especially to counteract newer developments, 20% to 30% of which in the United States do not include footpaths. Some activists advocate large auto-free zones where pedestrians only or pedestrians and some non-motorised vehicles are allowed. Many urbanists have extolled the virtues of pedestrian streets in urban areas. In the U.S. the proportion of households without a car is 8%, but a notable exception is New York City, the only locality in the United States where more than half of all households do not own a car (the figure is even higher in Manhattan, over 75%).
The use of cars for short journeys is officially discouraged in many parts of the world, and construction or separation of dedicated walking routes receives a high priority in most large European city centres - among other places - often in conjunction with public transport enhancements. In Copenhagen the world's longest pedestrian shopping area, Strøget, has been developed over the last 40 years principally due to the work of Danish architect Jan Gehl, a principle of urban design known as copenhagenization.
- Dérive aimless walking usually through city streets
- Junior safety patrol
- List of U.S. cities with most pedestrian commuters
- Pedestrian zone
- Traffic calming
- New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 130
- Wells, Spencer (2005). "Genographic Project". More than one of
- U.S. Department of Transportation Trail - A path of travel for recreation and/or transportation within a park, natural environment, or designated corridor that is not classified as a highway, road, or street.
- Shared-use paths, U.S. Department of Administration
- California Vehicle Code
- 2001 U.S. National Household Travel Survey highlights
- America Walks - American pedestrian advocacy group
- Living Streets Aotearoa - New Zealand pedestrian advocacy group
- Living Streets - UK pedestrian advocacy group
- Keep Left - a campaign to establish the UK pedestrian protocol
- Transportation Alternatives: Pedestrian Advocacy
- Pednet - For pedestrian activists and walking advocates internationally
- Street quality promotion by street parties
- Perils For Pedestrians on Blip TV
- Walkable Communities