Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Community Building Tip: Walkable City

For my current set of tips, I've decided to use the one I wrote based on how to make your hometown more like Bluehill in Terramagne-America. I took a close look at the town's positive features with an eye toward replicating them here with local resources.

* Walkable city. Good sidewalks, cars minimized in the densest areas of downtown, excellent diversity of goods and services within a few blocks' radius. Look for proposals to renovate downtown areas and/or promote alternative transportation to cars.


Walkability is a measure of how well a location accommodates people traveling on foot. Learn what makes a city or neighborhood more walkable. Get the walkscore of an address.

Mass transit relies heavily on walkability, as people typically walk to a bus stop or train station. Look at how some cities unite walkability and public transportation. Terramagne has fantastic mass-transit. One of the first differences I noticed was that characters rarely have to wait more than 5-10 minutes for a bus.

Reduce cars to improve walkability. Create walkable streets with traffic calming techniques.

Walkability supports business. Conversely, many interesting businesses raise walkability. Here are some ways to encourage small businesses in your town.

Learn how to make cities more walkable. You can choose any of those points that appeal to you and push for it. This handbook has many ideas.

Visit some of the most walkable cities. Note which features you like or dislike. Encourage your town to make improvements accordingly.

Explore the benefits of walkability. Use these to argue for improving it. Suit your argument to your listener's needs or interests -- people consistently look out for themselves.

Consider the challenges of disability and walkability. A well-designed walkable neighborhood will also be accessible to people with various disabilities due to wide smooth sidewalks and protection from fast traffic. Learn how to conduct a walk audit. This post includes a list of walkability aspects. Bear in mind that the barriers perceived by actual citizens may differ from -- even contradict -- those regarded by law. In Illinois, curbcuts are now made with vicious raised bumps that pose a tripping hazard and injury hazard to everyone, not to mention a motor barrier to electric wheelchairs. These would be counted as accessible routes by law, but not by many users. Always ask the actual people who use the route you are surveying. Here are some thoughts on pedestrians with disabilities.

Think about the different levels of ability and, if possible, offer paths of varying challenge levels marked accordingly. Many parks do this so that more athletic people can choose 'rugged' routes for more tactile interest and efficient exercise. A range of easy-moderate-rugged will suffice for most towns and urban parks, allowing you to incorporate routes with historic features such as brick streets or staircases. Also, a determined wheeler in an outdoor model of wheelchair may do just fine over grass, tree roots, cobblestones, etc. Some parks offer a texture trail for barefoot walking or a sensory trail for stimulation. Markers help pedestrians locate the features of a sensory trail.

Benches are vital to walkability and society. Notice that some cities wage a war on sitting, which greatly reduces their walkability. The real measure of walkability is how far an individual can go without sitting down, and what they can reach within that distance. Therefore a city with many benches allows mobility-impaired people to make a trip in stages, while a city with few benches is unwalkable for most people. Even able-bodied people are one broken ankle away from needing those accommodations. Some other cities add benches to improve accessibility, including smart benches, and may even have a program distributing free benches upon request. Friendship benches encourage conversation and support. Measure your town's distance between benches or other public seats, and add more if needed. A bus stop should always have a bench, or preferably a whole shelter, wherever there is room to put one. Here's a discussion of street furniture. Browse plans to make benches. There are various ways to make seating accessible for everyone. If you own property that people walk past, you have the option of placing a bench on your private property, which is often much easier than getting permission to install one on public property. Terramagne has benches all over the place, in a huge variety of shapes and styles.

Technology can help by plotting points of interest within each locale. Instead of a generic walkscore you can then generate the accessibility of any desired amenity or set of amenities.

Another use for technology is logging your town's recommended walking routes with their distance on a website and/or phone app. Offer a range of 1/4 mile (less than 5 minutes), 1/2 mile (less than 10 minutes), 1 mile (~15 minutes), 2 miles (~30 minutes), 4 miles (~1 hour) and longer if you wish. Some towns mark popular routes with trail arrows and/or paint stripes. Color coding aids navigation. For accessibility, use Braille labels for text and Feelipa or ColorADD symbols for color. Read more about Braille trails. These value-added features encourage walking for fitness (by measuring distance) and for entertainment (by indicating routes with many or popular amenities).

EDIT 9-21-19: Several people pointed out neighborhoods that purport to be walkable but are hostile to people with disabilities or downright inaccessible. Walkable means comfortably navigable on human scale -- if it's not also accessible for people using a wheelchair, walker, cane, stroller, etc. then it doesn't count. Take steps to ensure that a genuine walkable neighborhood is inclusive. In particular, watch for ADA violations. Here is an easy reading handbook and a more detailed one on making cities more accessible.

EDIT 9-21-19: [personal profile] erulisse points out the importance of a grocery store or produce stand within walking distance. Some poor neighborhoods have solved their food desert problem by bringing in farm trucks. Here are some ideas for making produce more available.


What are some other ideas you've noticed in your area or elsewhere? Do you have more ideas for making improvements?
Tags: a little slice of terramagne, how to, recurring posts
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