Make your community more walkable!
A walkable community gets people moving, out talking with each other. A walkable community also gets higher real estate scores.
In the picture above, kids are learning to evaluate the walkability of Charleston’s streets. They looked at sidewalk width, curbs, ease of crossing streets and behavior of drivers, among other things. Kanawha Boulevard got an “awful” rating. Their report was used in a Boulevard redesign.
A West Side audit near a new school resulted in crosswalks and other precautions.
“Basically, you walk around the community listing features that make it easy and hard to walk, including things like sidewalks, crosswalks, hazards, and bike lanes,” said West Virginia University’s Dr. Ron Eck.
The survey gives you specific information for budget requests for sidewalks and other improvements, Eck said. “Whether you’re asking city council to do something or applying for a grant, you need to be able to show you did your homework.”
In Clendenin (population 1,200), volunteers walked the town center, using one of Dr. Eck’s checklists. “Once we’d located all the problem areas, we could say exactly what the needs are,” said Mary Grandon, assessment coordinator. “It gave us an informed basis to ask city council for targeted help.”
“People can do their own study if they have a good checklist and folks who understand the relationship between the built environment and walking,” Eck said. “In many WV communities, for instane, sidewalks are right up against the curb. There should be a couple of feet as a buffer. People aren’t used to looking for things like that.”
Eck and a colleague created a checklist for rural areas (see below). “Most checklists you find on the Internet would work well in Chicago or maybe Morgantown,” he said, “but most of West Virginia’s not like that. I wanted to also give rural people the idea that, hey, just because there’s no walking track near me, I can still walk.”
Click HERE for a conversation with Ron Eck about walkability studies.
Want to make your community more walkable?
First, check out these excellent Web sites and reports:
Walkable communities Inc. http://www.walkable.org/
Partnership for a Walkable America: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/alcohol/Archive/Archive/safesobr/12qp/walkable.html
Smart Growth America: Foot Traffic Ahead. http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/locus/foot-traffic-ahead/
Interested in the impact walkability can have on real estate values? http://www.cnbc.com/id/101766206
See these Try This pages:
* Create a kids’ running group
If you want to do a walkability assessment:
- Type “Walkability assessment” or “bikeability assessment” into a search engine, and you’ll find lots of examples. See if any of them suit your community. HERE is Ron Eck’s tool for rural areas. Here is his checklist for West Virginia towns. He cautions that the checklist in the hands of an inexperienced person is not guaranteed to produce a good study. “There are certain things you know to look for after awhile,” he said.
- West Virginia Local Technical Assistance Program at West Virginia University. They provide communities with free help with walkability studies: http://wvltap.wvu.edu/about.html and Ronald.Eck@mail.wvu.edu
- Here are some national walkability checklists. See if they are appropriate for your community: http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/library/details.cfm?id=12 and https://www.walkscore.com/walkable-neighborhoods.shtml
- Get kids involved. HERE is the KEYS Walkability study of Kanawha Boulevard.
- Here is a news story about a Walkability study of Charleston’s West Side. http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201103221219
- Here is Williamson’s walkability report, assembled by Ron Eck. http://www.wvonthemove.net/docs/WilliamsonWalkaboutReport_Nov2011.pdf
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