International Conference to Explore the Importance of Walking to Promote Safe, Sustainable and Liveable Communities

Published: 27 Jan, 2022

In partnership with Walk21, TU Dublin will welcome leading politicians, environmental experts, not for profit organisations, and community activists to Dublin for a global conference examining how to reinvent our urban, suburban and rural communities to be more walkable and sustainable.

Connecting experts from around the world with local practitioners and community activists, the conference will celebrate the importance of walking and showcase innovative solutions to deliver on climate change targets and address the climate emergency.

The Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities, taking place in September 2022, is supported by the Department of Health, Department of Transport and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on behalf of the Government of Ireland and non-profit organisations from across the sport, health and transport sectors.

Launch of Walk21 Ireland group photo

Pictured at the launch of Walk21 Ireland are Neasa Hourigan TD; Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers T.D.; CEO of Walk21, Bronwen Thornton; President of TU Dublin, Professor David FitzPatrick, and Frank Feighan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy.  

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan T.D., said: The Walk21 Conference will provide us with a great opportunity to highlight the benefits and importance of walking, and the progress already underway in Ireland to provide safe and connected infrastructure for those who choose to walk to work or school or recreationally on our Greenway Network. The Government have set out an ambitious and wide-ranging set of commitments in relation to walking and cycling, and in keeping with this, I am pleased that our support will ensure that the Walk21 Conference can be held in Ireland in 2022. My announcement earlier this week of funding of €289m for investment in cycling and walking in 2022 is further confirmation of the Government's commitment to this area and builds on the significant progress of the last couple of years. As we work towards a significant reduction in our climate emissions, the Walk 21 Conference will provide a unique platform for discussion at international level and most importantly inspire people to get walking.

Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers T.D., said, "Our strong financial support for the Walk 21 Conference reflects the importance that we attach to the promotion of walking in the overall effort to achieve a more physically active population. Walking is a great form of exercise that brings many physical and mental health benefits. During the pandemic, it was great to see so many people out walking in the fresh air. We need however to build on the evident goodwill of people towards walking, not just for leisure but as part of everyday life. It would be a sign of real progress if we can get more people walking to and from the shops, to sports training, or to a match, or to school or work. That to me is a key challenge to be overcome and I hope that Walk 21 can provide some vital insights in that respect."

Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well-Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan T.D., said: "I am very happy that Ireland is hosting this important conference. I am very keen to promote walking because it's a simple and free form of exercise that anyone, at any level of fitness, can do. It's a great boost to physical and mental health and also benefits the environment. The Walk21 Ireland Conference will provide a great opportunity for us to promote the benefits of walking, not just in Ireland but internationally."  

Launching a call for conference proposals, Jennifer Boyer, Vice President for Sustainability at TU Dublin, said, "The Walk21 International Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities provides Ireland with a unique opportunity to bring together key stakeholders that must work together to address the global climate emergency and the need for more efficient and effective transport systems, safer and healthier communities, along with more walking as part of everyday life."

Continuing, Ms Boyer said, "The mission of Walk21 fits very well with how TU Dublin views the world around us and our three strategic pillars of People, Planet and Partnership. To reflect our shared values and promote our sustainability ethos, the global Walk21 Ireland conference will be a hybrid event providing over 5,000 delegates from across the globe the opportunity to attend online, maximising our international reach while minimising our environmental footprint."

Bronwen Thornton, CEO of Walk21, explains the conference will draw attention to a thriving international community committed to promoting healthy and sustainable communities and influencing national and international policy about walk-friendly infrastructure in our urban, suburban and rural areas. "This is a landmark conference for Walk21 and the international walking community. With a national focus and academic host, the event will bring a spotlight to what national governments can do to advance the international agenda in support of local action for more walking and stimulate the research required to inform that action. Ireland is leading the world with its commitments to walking, and we look forward to inspiring others to step up and join the momentum."

This event directly supports and actively implements key interdependent national policies and strategies, including the Climate Action Plan, the National Planning Framework, National Physical Activity Plan, National Sports Policy, Our Rural Future, Community Enhancement Programme, Healthy Ireland Framework, and the upcoming Sustainability Mobility Policy.

Walk21 is a charity dedicated to ensuring the right to walk. Working with communities, agencies, governments and people from all walks of life, Walk21 contributes to policy debate, develops and share tools and resources and promotes the value of walking for all.

Read about the Walk21 Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities.