By: Rebecca Cline
Walkability. It’s a term that some may not be familiar with; however, it is a term that affects everyone, even if you are not aware. Community members, including older adults, individuals with and without disability, families, youth, and more, utilize the town’s physical environment to get from point A to point B. Within the community, are you walking somewhere? Biking? Pushing? Using an assistive device? A walkable community is designed to support public activity, and it provides an affordable form of travel.
Walkable communities allow for individuals to engage in physical activity independently as well as provide social experiences. Know that each person and/or organization may define “walkability” differently, but an overarching concept is that the space is accessible and can be pleasantly and independently used. With different experiences and preferences, an individual can distinguish personal perspectives and opinions of what works best for him or her; nevertheless, understanding the built environment and how it positively influences the society members can create a sustainable city.
A broad perspective of walkability simply displays that the community provides clear, continuous pedestrian access. Conducting a walk audit can pin point these great features in a community as well as identify barriers to participation. Here are some items, certainly not limited, to ask when you are assessing your local area:
1. Is it safe?
2. Is it well-lit?
3. Are there curb cuts?
4. Are crosswalks audible and do they allow enough time to cross the street?
5. Are sidewalks wide and free of cracks and barriers?
6. Are there benches or places to rest along the route?
7. Is there access to healthy food options nearby?
For a community to become walkable, it most certainly cannot happen overnight. Planning is key. Reach out and listen to all individuals to develop a strategic plan, and use this information to design spaces that will benefit all members. Be a voice in your community by attending town meetings and sharing what else will benefit and improve the town to become more walkable for everyone.