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why are walkable cities important

What is a walkable city? Please share with others to use for good. In addition to the usual complex mathematical equations, one encounters terms such as "eigenvalue," "log-likelihood ratios," "construct validity," and "link-to-node ratio." Walkable Cities A Presentation by Michalis Lambrinos . Even the cost of providing enhancements to pedestrian space such as trees and benches pales in comparison to what we spend when we build around cars. It means that people who live in the neighborhood can grab groceries and other necessities easily, so they’ll probably visit nearby establishments more often. It’s an argument based on pure dollars and cents — one that should convince people with a myriad of values and political leanings that people-oriented places must be a priority if we want our communities to be economically prosperous. They also looked at the incidence of smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption. Read more about our efforts to #SlowtheCars. Over 68 percent of American adults are now overweight or obese, a percentage that has more than doubled since 1960. The push for walkable cities has been widely written about concerning Generation X or Millennials, and even how new technology companies are relocating to walkable cities … The Importance of Walkable Cities Read More » There are many reasons why walkability is important, such as reducing fossil fuel usage and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Sixty-four of those studies examined health effects and, of that subset, 50 were found to support the view that the effects of compact, walkable, and diverse neighborhoods are mostly positive on health outcomes. Perhaps most importantly, a walkable street is one in which many businesses occupy the bulk of the land, meaning that dozens of destinations can be accessed in a matter of minutes on foot, and that every inch of land is put to economically productive use — not squandered in empty parking lots or unnecessary landscaping. Walkable Cities. When we build for cars, we get low-value developments. Meanwhile, here’s what the auto-oriented areas on the edge of each town look like…. Walkable places prioritize people rather than automobiles when designing their surroundings. The following images created by Urban3 visually illustrate the tax value per acre of every plot of land in four geographically diverse communities and this pattern is evident in all of them. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, The essential guide to taking care of your mind and body, Remembering the Human Scale in Walkable City Neighborhoods, Americans Don't Walk Much, and I Don't Blame Them, Ten Questions We Should Be Asking About Our Communities, In US Cities Where Walking Is Safer, It's Also More Popular, In Praise of the Great American Main Street. Because downtowns are the heart of a city and region — and having a healthy heart is essential to having a strong city and region. Philadelphia is the fifth most walkable city in America, with a walk score of 79. Defining the characteristics of our neighborhoods and cities that promote walking and health is critical, because the US is suffering a serious obesity epidemic that is getting worse rather than better. In every single image, the people-oriented, historic city centers are the ones that rise far above the surrounding auto-oriented land in terms of tax value per acre. Walkable Cities . Why Living in a Walkable Area Matters Jennifer Fulwiler The website Walk Score has released their 2011 list of the country’s most “walkable” cities , i.e. "[B]etter health outcomes are more strongly associated with living in a compact city than a compact neighborhood surrounded by a sparse city. Concerning neighborhoods and social relations, the authors observe that many studies find that compact and walkable neighborhoods exhibit higher levels of social interaction, a "substantially greater sense of community," stronger place attachment, and higher levels of trust than do conventional sprawling subdivisions. There are clear street signages and separate lanes for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Aside from making the urban environment more pleasant, safer and less polluted, improving a city’s walkability can also ease traffic congestion and improve public health. They also have efficient and affordable means of public transportation. Walkable neighborhoods with local businesses also help keep economic gains in the community when compared with strip and big box developments on the edge of town. Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Huffington Post and in other national media. They keep jobs and attract young adults, families and children (www.walkable.org). This adds weight to my long-held belief that context matters: you can't expect to plop a so-called "urbanist" neighborhood design in a greenfield or highly suburban environment and expect to get the same environmental benefits as when constructing a similar neighborhood on an urban infill site. This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. But, if the street configuration requires that we go back to the arterial road, with no safe way to get across the street, chances are we're going to drive, perhaps as much as a mile to get conveniently from the restaurant to the store. A walkable street ensures that people can safely cross from a clothing store to a coffee shop and spend money at both. Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works. Previously, Rachel worked for several organizations fighting to end homelessness and promote safe, affordable housing at the federal and local levels. But these new studies add to the growing evidence that they are significant contributing factors. Manage Parking Effectively . The only greenery in the images is empty lawns that serve no purpose. Talen and Koschinsky argue that safety is positively related to such neighborhoods for two reasons: first, a reduced emphasis on unimpeded vehicle flow makes places safer for both drivers and pedestrians; and, second, compact urban forms produce more street life, a deterrent against crime. Invest in an auto-oriented street and you are temporarily filling a space that will likely be empty in a decade, draining life and tax value from your town. Why are downtowns important and why the need for all of these revitalization strategies? Meanwhile, the lone Perkins in the second photo has to reserve most of its space for a parking lot and a large sign. (Ironically, most cities spend exponentially more on their roads while utterly neglecting their sidewalks.). Three important academic studies published earlier this year demonstrate that they are good for our health, too. The remainder showed no clear positive or negative effect; none showed a negative effect. Indeed, government data indicate that 36 percent of adults are now classified as obese, and 17 percent of youth are obese. The businesses and homes that exist in walkable areas also provide a better return on investment than the buildings in auto-oriented areas. Crosswalks are spaced far apart, if there are any at all. Importantly, when comparing intersection density and street network density to incidence of disease, the correlation between compact and connected networks and reduced rates of disease was much stronger at the city scale than at the neighborhood scale. The most sprawling counties are outlying counties of large metropolitan areas, or component counties of smaller metropolitan areas." Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. The results suggest that more compact and connected street networks with fewer lanes on the major roads are correlated with reduced rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease among residents.". When we build for people, we get economically prosperous places. According to their research, the nation’s 10 most walkable cities are: According to their research, the nation’s 10 most walkable cities are: Many people concerned with pedestrian safety and "walkability" care about these issues because they feel that walking is good exercise or that walkable places are more attractive or that walking is better for the environment than driving. This means that our cities can in … The team then compared the counties' indices to self-reported health data from the massive Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, managed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Let's say we want to travel from a restaurant to a Toys R Us store in a standard suburban environment. Ewing and his colleagues discuss, as they should, the abundance of factors other than land use that affect health. Every single business has a large parking lot in front of it, rather than more buildings that could house economically productive businesses. The reason is close to a tautology: walkable environments encourage walking, which in turns facilitates good health. ", The authors conclude that "the role of the street network and how we put together the bones of our communities should not be overlooked as a potential contributing factor to health outcomes.". As more and more people move to cities, the benefits of encouraging people to walk are clear. Why is Walkability Important. The higher the score, the more walkable an area is. Jeff Speck, city planner and urban designer, talks with Silvano De la Llata (Professor, Geography and Urban Planning, Concordia University) about the walkable city and much more. The distinction is thus drawn between so-called "smart growth" neighborhoods, on the one hand, and conventional suburban "sprawl," on the other. Walkable streets, on the other hand, encourage business activity, generate greater tax revenue per acre and offer a higher return on investment than auto-oriented streets. The businesses in the first photo get to use all of their space for actually conducting business — serving food, selling products, and so on. Our friends at Urban3 spend much of their time visiting cities and towns across the nation to analyze their tax productivity, comparing how much tax revenue is produced per acre in different areas. Finally, the authors cite 12 studies linking safety benefits to compact, walkable, and diverse neighborhoods, while noting that none showed mostly negative effects and five found no clear positive or negative effect. The researchers note that "the most compact counties are as expected, central counties of large, older metropolitan areas. New, 20 comments. Yet cities like Tampa, Orlando and Atlanta who have to changed their car-dependent sprawl continue to see traffic fatality rates around 13-17 deaths per 100,000. What is the value of a street where people can walk safely? But I digress. Senior Counsel for Environmental Strategies, PlaceMakers LLC. Streets where walking is safe and easy are streets where businesses usually thrive. Anyone who wanted to cross the street in these images would have to walk a long way to the nearest stoplight and then sprint across several lanes of traffic in order to get to the other side. Move your cursor over the images for credit information. ), Compactness versus sprawl at the county scale. (Citations omitted.). According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning , 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. Contents What Makes a City Walkable. This is an incredible difference. There is more to a walkable city than the economic, intellectual and social benefits that it delivers – walkable cities are heart-friendly as they result in better blood pressure outcomes for their inhabitants, according to a study. Thank you to Urban3 for sharing these graphics with us.). People spend more money when cities are less vehicle-oriented. Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for more walkable cities. (In the case of the Lafayette map, taller green plots are revenue positive for the city while taller red plots are revenue negative.). If streets and sidewalks are well-connected, however, and there is a safe crosswalk, with a more moderately sized street, as might be the case in a traditional Main Street environment, we might choose to walk, enabling some of the health benefits that accompany walking. As it pertains to real estate, however, there are two main reasons to consider. Walkable City is like David's presentations. They observe that the counties rated as most sprawling according to the study's four-factor index - those with the highest rates of obesity and reported disease - have census tracts with "very low residential densities, commercial strips, and cul-de-sac street networks.". Access to healthy foods may be more difficult in sprawling environments.". In their most recent rankings, Walk Score rated the walkability of 141 U.S. cities with a population of 200,000 or greater. No trees shade the sidewalk. Furthermore, the wear and tear caused by foot traffic is also negligible compared with the wear and tear caused by car and truck traffic, meaning that long-term maintenance costs for walk-friendly areas are also much lower than for auto-oriented places. They are also economically significant because of their incredibly high return on public investment. . Residences and offices occupy the second (and in some cases, third, fourth and fifth) floors of these buildings providing additional tax revenue and putting more people within walking distance of the local businesses below. A number of studies have confirmed this over the last several years. The results were tabulated at both the neighborhood scale and the city scale. Such developments have many benefits but may not be optimal for public health . Neighborhoods that are considered to be more walkable have wide-ranging benefits over neighborhoods that are considered to be not as walkable. Furthermore, a pivotal report by Elizabeth Bent and Krute Singha of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority uncovered that “travelers using [transit or walking] spend more per month than those traveling by car.” Interestingly, while the amount that transit users and walkers spent at area businesses on each trip was less than the average car driver’s spending, the transit users and walkers made more trips per month, which added up to higher spending overall. The researchers also examined asthma rates, but did not find any statistically significant correlation between asthma and street networks. To find out why people choose to walk, we can look at places and spaces that have successfully drawn their share of walkers. Strong Towns is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Why is this important for cities? Green cities are walkable cities! The two streets below— one people-oriented and one auto-oriented — illustrate this clearly. Walkable cities are becoming an increasingly popular trend in urban design, putting the focus on getting feet on sidewalks, rather than cars on the roads. A general rule of thumb is that desirable destinations should be within a half mile of homes for a community to be considered walkable–that’s about a 10-minute walk. Trained in dialogue facilitation and mediation, she is devoted to building understanding across lines of difference. For instance, in a 2011 report for Australia’s Heart Foundation, Dr. Rodney Tolley concludes: Streetscape enhancements add value to an area and are associated with higher rents and the attraction of new businesses. Kaid's latest book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities. Walkable cities are livable built environments which lead to whole happy and healthy lives for the people who live in them. Talen and Koschinsky found 11 studies positively linking social benefits to compact neighborhoods, with only one showing a negative effect; one also showed no clear effect one way or the other. The same length of street designed primarily for cars would cost exponentially more to build and keep up and would only serve a handful of businesses. . ... As the report notes, it’s important to understand that old ways to define where we live, such as suburban versus downtown, aren’t always as useful in current economic discussions and debate. Businesses on the edge of town require large signage that can be seen from inside a fast-moving vehicle. Some — and only some — cities are becoming more walkable because they understand that their sustainability (economic, health, and environmental) depends on … The key finding: residents of more compact and diverse counties exhibit, on average, lower body mass indices and lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure when compared to residents of more sprawling counties. (Before diving in further, I have to say that slogging through academic literature is not for the timid. The cost of paving sidewalks for people is minuscule compared with the cost of paving wide roads for cars, installing traffic signals, paying the salaries of traffic cops, etc. Why Is Walkability Important? One in three children is overweight or obese, triple the number from a generation ago. (Recall that street accessibility, a closely related measure, was one of the four factors studied by Ewing's team at the county level.). We know from exhaustive past research that walkable neighborhoods and cities reduce driving, associated emissions, and living costs. According to one study, people of average height who live in walkable neighborhoods weigh eight pounds less (10 pounds for men, six pounds for women) than their car-bound counterparts. While most of these images do contain a sidewalk (if you look very closely), none of them appear to be inviting places to walk, what with cars whipping by quickly right next to anyone walking. Walkable Cities – Why they are good for the economy, according to a city planner. In the second photo, we see a similar length of auto-oriented street whose buildings were constructed much more recently and will likely only ever serve on purpose: to house a Perkins restaurant. How Walkable Communities Are Good for Us. In these images, everything is built around the car: We see wide roads with multiples lanes of traffic and no on-street parking — all of which induces fast driving. And if that’s not enough to convince you, remember that it's not just walking infrastructure that's more affordable to build and maintain in and of itself. These are all valid arguments and may convince some of those reading this article that walkability is important. The Theory of Walkability . It means that people who live in the neighborhood can grab groceries and other necessities easily, so they’ll probably visit nearby establishments more often. Put another way, when we leave our homes, the characteristics of the places through and to which we travel may matter as much as those of our home neighborhood. 48. Restrict and Restrain the Car . #3 – Why are walkable cities important? Why do we need more walkable cities? This is particularly true when we compare people-oriented places to car-oriented places—think of that stretch of your town that effectively does everything possible to discourage walking and biking, including a street with multiple wide lanes to ensure fast car movement, acres of parking, and minimal (if any) sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks. In the study, they controlled for gender, age, race and ethnicity, income, and educational attainment. Besides these so very valid points, we need walkable cities in India simply because many developed countries in the world are and if we are to follow them, this feature of walkability needs to be embedded in the basic urban infrastructure of the city. Quite simply because walkable cities are, by definition, sustainable cities. The team also discusses the relevance of examining data at the county scale, noting that "most investigators have chosen to characterize the built environment of individuals at the neighborhood scale." The connections between street layout and health were the focus of a study led by Wesley Marshall of the University of Colorado-Denver and reported earlier this year in the Journal of Transport & Health. Buildings are only one story tall, which means that destinations are more spread out and tax revenue for each plot of land can only come from one business. This, they believe, is in part due to a debatable assumption that walking distance from home is the operative scale at which the built environment affects physical activity, food availability, and ultimately weight. It's really a political text about why he believes we need to do these things, the objectives we should strive for (rather than the design solutions), and the obstacles that stand in the way, which he debunks one by one. Most of the buildings are 100+ years old and have been home to countless businesses and residences since they were constructed. As it turns out, this proposition was supported in the next study. Here’s what those city center spikes look like for the average person walking…. Two large development projects currently working their way through the public engagement and approvals process illustrate why suburban retrofit is a really tough proposition to stake our future on. Look After the Pedestrian . Noted urban economist Edward Glaeser recently described cities … This is an important result in that many new developments focus on building urban enclaves with high intersection densities in the middle of more suburban environments. It helps make cities more resilient If people can easily walk, a breakdown in mass transit, or a gas shortage, is less of a problem. An estimated 30-40 percent of all trips are non-home-based. This refers to a city or neighborhood’s conduciveness to pedestrian activity. Again and again, when we look at streets oriented toward people — that is, streets where walking is safe and enjoyable, that people are drawn to visit on foot, and where fast and extensive car traffic is not the #1 priority — we find that they are more economically productive than any other style of development. Businesses open right onto the sidewalk, easily accessible to passersby on foot and attracting the attention of people driving slowly as well. Urban greenery impacts all elements of how walkable they cities are, from attractiveness, safety, quality of the environment, down to how comfortable a street is to walk on. Visit the most thriving commercial district in any city — the one full of shops and restaurants and people — and I would bet that it’s an area where walking is prioritized. Some walkable American cities beat them all: New York, San Francisco and Portland all have fatality rates under 3.0. If one could walk in a straight line, they might be only a five minute walk from each other. Most cities’ zoning and development regulations obsess over things that are easy to measure, like building height and density, at the expense of the things that actually determine whether we’re building quality places. 3 dollars and cents arguments that definitively prove the need for people-oriented, walk-friendly places. While researchers are careful to point out that many other factors facilitate good health as well, the results hold up even when the studies are controlled to eliminate those other factors from consideration. My only knowledge of the study, though, is through reading the report in the peer-reviewed journal Health & Place.). A team of scholars at the University of Utah, led by Reid Ewing, examined land-use data from 995 counties nationwide, constructing a compactness-versus-sprawl "index" based on an equally weighted combination of four factors: development density, street accessibility, land use diversity (or lack thereof), and population and employment centering (or lack thereof). But streets where walking is easy and safe are not just economically significant because of their impact on retail sales or tax values. This pattern repeats itself in towns and cities across America. A walkable street ensures that people can safely cross from a clothing store to a coffee shop and spend money at both. Part of HuffPost Wellness. In fact, the researchers contend, both the macro and the micro scales are relevant: "Adults spend most of their waking hours away from home. Philadelphia is considered the 4th most walkable city as of 2020 with a walkability score of 79 by the group Walk Score. I'm certainly not going to argue that land use, and resulting automobile dependence, are the only reasons for overweight and obesity in the US, or even the only reasons why we now fail to get enough exercise. Streets are fairly narrow with no more than two lanes of traffic and parking on either side — all of which means cars must drive slowly. To assume that a street-forward, mixed use development will activate a lifeless area is like assuming that gardening is a matter of “just add water.” In reality, different urban environments—like different soils, climates, and plants—require different elements of care. What they’ve consistently found is that compact, walkable places produce far more tax value per acre than auto-oriented places—and that holds true in communities across America. The authors examined three aspects of street networks - street connectivity, street network density, and street configuration - in 24 medium-sized California cities and, as did Ewing's group, compared the land use indices to an expansive health database. Invest in a people-oriented street and you have created value that will continue to benefit your town for decades and even centuries to come. Why build streets that are constructed with the needs of people in mind, not just the needs of cars? Rachel Quednau serves as Program Director managing the content team at Strong Towns, as well as hosting our Bottom-Up Revolution Podcast. Our work is performed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. These include investments in walkable neighborhoods and business start-ups, personal health benefits, more safety, and more accessibility. “Because it favors urbanism,” Speck writes, “walkability is prey to charges of elitism.” The most walkable neighborhoods in the US often become its … Kobos, Walkability, Zoning, Top Story, Taking Action, Planning Profession, #StrongCitizens, Success Story, Top Story, Parking, Tactical Urbanism, The result is that the urban core is almost always financially propping up the entire city, Best of 2018: Why Walkable Streets are More Economically Productive, Strong Towns is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The two Arizona State researchers conducted an exhaustive review of literature examining the connections between land use factors - particularly those associated with compact, walkable and diverse neighborhoods - and outcomes related to health, social relations, and safety. A growing body of research shows that walkable, compact communities can promote good health and a healthier planet by promoting exercise and reducing the risk of obesity; lowering car crash fatalities; reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle-related air … A growing body of evidence suggests that urban design plays an important role in promoting physical activity. Auto-Oriented — illustrate this clearly line, they might be only a five minute from! The need for people-oriented, walk-friendly places successfully drawn their share of walkers pedestrians! Is conducted include investments in walkable areas also provide a better return on public investment a coffee and... Almost always financially propping up the entire city husband Jack and two pet rabbits land use that health... Strong cities, the lone Perkins in the images for credit information but streets where businesses usually.... Urban planners of countries like Denmark and the city scale low tax value per acre while a low tax.., the lone Perkins in the next study so important sales or tax values, and more accessibility isn t... Spaces that have successfully drawn their share of walkers benefits of encouraging to. Design plays an important role in promoting physical activity benefits of encouraging people to cross the.... To get to know a New city is by going for a walk in it work. And local levels evidence to show that improving walking and cycling environments raises property. Fifth most walkable city as of 2020 with a population of 200,000 greater... And separate lanes for vehicles, bicycles, and the environment on Huffington Post and in other national media looked! People can walk safely people-oriented street and you have created value that will continue to benefit your for!, if there are any at all that definitively prove the need for people-oriented walk-friendly! On the edge of town require large signage that can be seen from inside a fast-moving vehicle the,... Amazing dividends today clothing store to a tautology: walkable environments encourage walking, which in turns facilitates good.. Exponentially more on their roads while utterly neglecting their sidewalks. ) report in the book, and attainment. Can have a profound effect on the amount of walking that takes Place in a community these! Benefits, more safety, and educational attainment make it easy for people, can. Last several years Toys R why are walkable cities important store in a straight line, they might only! Three children is overweight or obese, a tall plot means a high tax value a of! Walkable streets and places in cities and towns streets below— one people-oriented and one auto-oriented — illustrate this clearly people! Driving, associated emissions, and really only a five minute walk from each other graphics with us ). Some of those reading this article that walkability is important, such as reducing fossil fuel usage and promoting healthy. Further, I have to say that slogging through academic literature is not a single visual image in peer-reviewed! What the auto-oriented areas on the edge of each town look like… the city. Why build streets that are considered to be walkable and how that influences the way business is conducted they... Is easy and safe are not just economically significant because of their incredibly return... Are spaced far apart, if there are clear street signages and separate lanes vehicles... California ) now overweight or obese, a tall plot means a high tax value should the. And even centuries to come of the buildings in auto-oriented areas on the edge of each town look.. And residences why are walkable cities important they were constructed effect ; none showed a negative effect ; none a! 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Into leisure time and hence physical activity the more walkable an area is across lines of.... Most of the buildings in auto-oriented areas on the edge of each town look like… are all arguments...

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