courtesy of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP)
Who is Winning the Race for Walkable Communities?
Whether you’re just heading out or returning from vacation, chances are the places you go for vacation have certain things in common – you can walk most places most days. In these places you feel safe and experience happiness when you’re walking. Many cities large and small throughout North America are discovering that it just might be possible – and profitable – to emulate our favorite walkable vacation destinations. Walkable real estate development projects and places are on the rise nationwide, but certain metro regions are winning the footrace, according to Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros. “This is an important study underlining the economic power of walkable places, and identifying which metro areas are adding them fastest,” said Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Cities that want to thrive in our new economic and demographic realities will need to find ways to create and support more of these dynamic, productive walkable districts that are in high demand.”
Those planning to be in Pittsburgh in September will have access to a first-ever Walking Institute. Two recognized organizations, America Walks and the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, joined forces with hosts of the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference. The Institute is a conference track that offers talks with experts, sessions on lessons learned, choosing the right engineer, kickstarting a community project and creating programs that get people walking.
Giving Way to Walkers
New information sheds light on which places may be the worst for walking. Earlier this month, Governing magazine looked at crash location coordinates for the more than 22,000 pedestrians killed nationwide between 2008 and 2012, and found that poorer neighborhoods have disproportionately higher rates of pedestrian deaths. As article author Mike Maciag noted: “Many cities have made pedestrian safety a priority, but their efforts rarely focus on poorer areas, which have approximately [twice] the fatality rates of wealthier communities.” Maciag interviewed Scott Bricker, director of the nonprofit America Walks, who agreed saying: “Many [poorer] areas have been neglected from a transportation standpoint. We need to devote much more energy on providing safe transportation options for everyone. Walking is a basic human right.”
Streets for People
Help is on the way for cities large and small. Written and published by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the Urban Street Design Guide is one of several reformist NACTO publications that artfully guide cities in making streets work for all users. The APBP Board of Directors has endorsed this and other NACTO guides.
A report from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers: Walking and Bicycling in Small Towns and Rural America was featured in the Aug. 20 APBP webinar on Transform Bicycling and Walking outside the Urban Context. Webinar presenters from small communities in rural Montana and Canada offered model guides and planning documents along with solutions and suggestions for partnerships, particularly between the planning, engineering and public health communities. (The webinar recording is available at www.apbp.org.)