Saturday, January 17, 2009

Walkability and walkable cities

I've recently been walking a lot. I have a city bus line that passes directly in front of my house, another one a half block away, and yet another one a couple blocks away. The buses have good connections to other bus and train lines and it's real convenient to walk over to the bus, take the bus, and walk around. It occurred to me while walking to ponder what makes a city walkable or not, and what can be done to advocate for cities to be more walkable.

A walkable city encourages positive changes like less pollution, and healthier people. Unfortunately the U.S. cities I'm familiar with have layout and construction that interfere with walkability. And, hey, looking around me I see a lot of people who drive everywhere and think that walking a mile is an impossibly long distance. I believe a large part of why a 1 mile walk is thought impossibly long is due to unwalkability.

For example roads (especially high traffic roads) cut neighborhoods and presents a walkability barrier. A pedestrian having to cross a high traffic road is in a risk from the traffic (at worst) or simply delayed waiting to cross the road, and while it's not insurmountable it is a barrier that degrades the walking experience.

While I was wondering I had a great brainstorming of a website which would crowdsource a walkability score. It would utilize a mapping service (like Google Maps) and ask people to put in walkability observations. Perhaps the collected data could be used to lobby governments for increased walkability.

Fortunately this exact service already exists. Whew, I don't have to implement it. Walk Score is this service. "We help you find a walkable place to live by calculating a Walk Score for any address."

Back to the Future: Walkable Urbanism gives an interesting explanation of how walkability used to be how our cities were organized, and it was the car based transportation in suburbia that made cities unwalkable.

Walkable Neighborhoods goes over their picture of what makes a place walkable. They have an interesting side by side comparison of the feasible walking radius for a one-mile walk based on different city designs. A city designed in a grid pattern is more walkable than the modern suburban design involving lots of quiet culdesacs.

Complete the Streets is an advocacy website meant to encourage that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street. HOW TO GET TO COMPLETE STREETS is an overview of the process.

What's Walkable? is research and ideas on walkable neighborhoods.

Why Walk? The Benefits of Walkable Neighborhoods ... Walkable Communities are Climate-Friendly ... Walkable Neighborhoods Promote Safety ... Walkable Neighborhoods Give You Time Back! ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrian-friendly - In urban design, walkability is the measure of the overall walking conditions in an area. The definition for walkability is: "The extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area". Factors affecting walkability include, but are not limited to: land use mix; street connectivity; residential density (residential units per area of residential use); "transparency" which includes amount of glass in windows and doors, as well as orientation and proximity of homes and buildings to watch over the street; plenty of places to go to near the majority of homes; placemaking, street designs that work for people, not just cars and retail floor area ratio. Major infrastructural factors include access to mass transit, presence and quality walkways, buffers to moving traffic (planter strips, on-street parking or bike lanes) and pedestrian crossings, aesthetics, nearby local destinations, air quality, shade or sun in appropriate seasons, street furniture, traffic volume and speed. and wind conditions. One of the best ways to quickly determine how walkable a block, corridor or neighborhood is is to count the number of people walking, lingering and enjoying a space. The diversity of people, and especially the presence of children, seniors and people with disabilities, denotes the quality, competeness and wholesomeness of a walkable space.

walkinginfo.org is another advocacy site aiming to improve walkability. It has information covering the basics and solutions of implementing walkability improvements.

External Media