A blog dedicated to getting people to move, walk, improve their mental and physical well being by participating in humanity's oldest form of physical activity.
Monday, January 5, 2015
Walkability is a term used to describe an area and its relative friendliness to walking. Are there sidewalks or paths? Are there vehicle free areas? Can a walker access all the amenities of an area? Like that.
This subject has been a hot topic in some areas recently - but it's not really about walkability but about how friendly an area is for biking. I'm down with that - but the bikers I routinely encounter on the streets and trails where I walk are only about 10% well-mannered. Most do not announce themselves when coming upon walkers from the rear - and that's just not okay!
When I went looking for information about walkability, I found an article about walking on wikipedia.org that contains a section on the topic. I had to laugh - an article about walking on Wikipedia! How basic. How simple. But, it's there and it contains lots of information that is of interest to us walkers. You can read the entire article here. The section about Walkability is about about halfway down the page. Then there are headings that cover how animals (other than humans) walk. Four legged and two legged walking are vastly different - and not always in the same ways. Did you know that? Well, now you can read all about it.
So, back to walkability. What would make an area walkable for you? Do you require sidewalks on every street. The right answer here is 'Yes' because unless we have safe walking 'lanes', we can't teach our children to walk anywhere safely. Do you want trails and places to rest along the way? Do you want to be able to get to restaurants and retail outlets on foot? Do you want to compete with cars and trucks all the time or should some areas be vehicle free? What impact might that have on local businesses? Would you vote for a tiny tax increase to pay for safe walkways and access to all the amenities in your town's main business district? How about mass transit? In many cities, walkability is highly increased by having access to a broad-ranging transit system like subways or buses.
I don't have answers for you here. I do have opinions. Where I live (a western suburb of a major Midwest metropolitan area), I can walk safely to only a few retail outlets such as a grocery store. To walk to a bank, a post office, or a shopping center with a variety of stores, I must walk about a mile (not a problem) and then cross a (up to) six lane major thoroughfare that has no pedestrian crosswalk. There's a traffic light, but no pedestrian crossing light. So, shopping in my home 'town' is not walkable. I have done it in off peak traffic hours, but I know I'm risking my physical well being by doing so. At a minimum, an improvement to the area would be a crosswalk with a pedestrian cycle.
Last summer, I decided to walk to a bank to drop off a deposit because that walk would give me about a two mile trek. Trek turned out to be the right word since for the last half of the walk to the bank, along a main road, there was no sidewalk! I passed two bus stops, including one that was sheltered from the wind - but no safe way to walk to either! Whose plan is this? BTW, taking a bus from my zipcode to a zipcode where most of the fast food workers live (the ones who use the bus) is about three hours ONE WAY. I would not like to have to work that hard to get to and from work. Doesn't sound right or fair to me.
My evaluation of my town's walkability would give my town about a 40% out of 100%. That's a failing grade - a really failing grade. Adding that one stretch of sidewalk would raise it to at least a 50%. Adding the pedestrian crosswalk - we'd actually need three of those - would raise the score to about 75% if we got all three. That would be awesome!
We can't take away the huge hill I'd have to walk and we have no control over the weather. Those things figure into the walkability equation for those who would be giving up a car. But, for those of us who just want the area where we live or work to be more accessible by foot, small changes create amazing outcomes. I could take a grocery cart to do my midweek grocery shopping. I could walk to the office supply store and the post office to take care of business. I could walk to banks, to get coffee, Chinese food, frozen yogurt, and soccer supplies, troll through two thrift stores, and walk to pick up my car or vacuum from the repair shop - and lots of other things. That's walkability.
The picture of the St. Louis Arch and Skyline is about 15 miles almost due East of my suburb of Manchester, Missouri.
Remember my 100% GUARANTEE. Should you decide to stop walking and resume your old habits, I personally guarantee that you'll get back 100% of your former life - your pain, your lifestyle, your attitude. You can trust the information you find here. It's from a dedicated walker. Trust me and your life will get better! I promise.