Walkability is a buzzword in community development and with good reason. The benefits of walkability are numerous, from health to community engagement—and it’s not just for cities anymore. But what does walkability actually mean? And how do we create walkable communities?
a workable definition
Walkability is the degree to which walkable destinations are available within a community. A walkable neighborhood or business district may offer amenities like restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, grocery stores and parks that make walking an attractive option for getting around town. It helps make our communities a pleasant and safe place to walk or bike where we need to go, whether for work, school, or shopping.
Now that we know what walkability is, let’s explore its many benefits, starting with how it can benefit the environment and sustainability.
big picture benefits
Walkability provides environmental benefits by reducing impact on resources such as gasoline and nonrenewable energy sources. It helps reduce greenhouse gases and car pollution. Walkability is a sustainable solution that can reduce our impact on the environment by promoting walkable neighborhoods that have an interconnected street grid, mixed land use with access to amenities within walking distance, short blocks, stores close to home and safe streets for people of all ages.
community benefits of walkability
In communities with good walkability, those who can’t drive or choose not to must be able to meet their daily needs on foot. These destinations might include job centers, grocery stores and convenience shops. In turn, this allows them to live in a smaller home or apartment because they aren’t spending large amounts of money on transportation costs – saving them thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.
Other benefits include:
- Increased walk and bike mode shares
- reduced obesity rates,
- reduced crime rates
- strategies for increasing walkable communities that can help revitalize local economies.
- increased walkable destination access – more retail opportunities with less sprawl
- and increased property value & rent prices in walkable areas.
You are probably already aware of the various health benefits associated with walking, but it not only leads to physical benefits but mental health benefits as well such as reducing stress level and improving moods throughout the day.
Walking has been shown to stimulate creativity by allowing your mind the opportunity to wander without distraction, improve self esteem by providing an outlet for solitary exercise and help reduce stress through improved mood. Furthermore, it has also been shown that people who live in more densely populated areas where they work, shop and play are generally happier than those who live in sprawling suburbs where driving becomes a necessity
how do we create more walkable communities?
Benefits are great, but how do we actually go about making our communities more walkable. It’s about making the choice to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use by providing more walkable destinations. There are many ways this can be done including adding crosswalks with pedestrian-activated signals, creating sidewalks where they don’t already exist, or expanding public transportation options in a community.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise but many people tend to avoid walking because there are no walk-friendly routes in their neighborhood . Streets that lack sidewalks discourage community members from getting around on foot while having speed limits over 20 mph discourages children and teenagers who cannot drive yet from using a bicycle as an alternative mode of locomotion. Traffic congestion can also be a safety concern if drivers must stop frequently along a busy roadway. The presence of street parking also encourages motorists to go faster so they won’t have to walk as far before reaching their destination.
Walkability is an important aspect of community living and we’ve seen its many benefits. Every citizen should strive to live in and create walkable communities for a happier life, better health, and the increased sustainability of the Earth.