Walkable Communities

 

Walking is a form of transportation that has been much overlooked in our fast-paced, automobile-dependent society.  Some of the benefits to walking instead of driving are:

  • Improved health
  • Reduced traffic congestion
  • Reduced air pollutant emissions
  • Greater sense of community

Federal statistics estimate that more than half of the American population is either overweight or obese, and that healthcare costs attributed to obesity now rival those of smoking (WebMD: http://my.webmd.com/ content/article/64/72524.htm).

Additionally, statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that obesity among children has quadrupled from the 1960s to 2002 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/ overwght99.htm):

Increasing the amount of physical activity one performs helps to reduce the onset of becoming obese or overweight.  Walking is considered one of the most beneficial and accessible forms of exercise known.  Increasing the accessibility and safety surrounding walking, or the “walkability” of a community, will help to achieve the many benefits of walking.

Many “master planned” communities of today, however, were planned with the idea that automobiles would be the primary mode of transportation.  Sidewalks in many communities are poorly designed or lacking altogether.  In other areas there may be hindrances that do not make walking safe or comfortable.  Some examples of these hindrances are:

  • Destination(s) are too far from home
  • Sidewalks are too narrow or are not offset from the street
  • Adjacent roads are too wide and speed limits are too high
  • Inadequate street lighting
  • Pedestrian ramps are lacking
  • Inadequate road striping/markings
  • Sidewalks are missing or in poor condition
  • Too much vehicular traffic

Vanderhawk Consulting combines a three-pronged approach to help solve the lack of a communities walkability:

  1. Engineering analysis
  2. Planning analysis
  3. Community outreach

Engineering analysis involves a thorough, quantitative analysis of the presence and location infrastructure assets related to a community’s level of walkability:

  • Sidewalks
  • Pedestrian ramps
  • Crosswalks
  • Street lighting
  • Median refuge islands
  • Traffic signals
  • Traffic signs

The engineering analysis relies heavily on the use of a GIS and GPS technology performed by vehicle and hand-held technology for the collection, organization, analysis, and display of these walkability assets.

Planning analysis entails a qualitative analysis of output provided from engineering analysis, additional field surveys, and prior experience. Community outreach starts at the beginning of any project to sign-up volunteers and spread the word about the study.  Community outreach workshops are held to increase public awareness of the project’s goals and objectives.  City walkthroughs are performed whereby citizens are taken on a walk through sample portions of the city to see firsthand what factors contribute to a good or bad walking corridor.

Please contact us if you’d like more information on how Vanderhawk Consulting can help your city become a more walkable and livable community.