We all know that walking is good for our health. As little as 30 minutes a day can make a measurable impact in a person’s life. But do you know just how good walking can be for our communities?
A growing number of studies find that people who live in cities and towns that have mixed land use policies, good street connectivity, and access to public transportation tend to walk more, weigh less, and therefore have reduced risks for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases (1).
Now, we all can’t be Denver. And we’re definitely not Europe. But taking lessons from both will help you understand the needs and opportunities to increase walkability in your community.
Lesson #1: Seek opportunities where you can undertake a “dualistic” strategy, meaning one that encompasses development of infrastructure AND policy. (Check out what the City of Edmonton did up in Alberta, Canada)
Lesson #2: Coordinate public transit with walking and cycling. You should be able to walk or cycle to all transit stations and bus stops.
Lesson #3: Increase bike parking, particularly at transit stations and bus stops. Also, buses and trains should accommodate those who need to transport their bikes as well. (Check out Chicago’s BikePlan 2015 and get some great ideas!)
Lesson #4: Consider changing traffic regulations in areas with high pedestrian and bike use. Traffic regulations and enforcement policies that favor pedestrians and cyclists might be a tough sell, but it’s a cultural shift that will leave a positive impact over time. (Find communities working on increasing walkability by visiting the Map of the Movement).
Lesson #5: Advocate for changes in land use policies. Learn more about form based codes, performance and incentive zoning, and transit-oriented development and start a conversation with your local planning and zoning commission on the right (and well-educated) foot. (Learn more about land use from the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware)
Lesson #6: Involve and educate a wide-variety of people and groups. From youth and the physically challenged to business and government, you’ll need to get buy-in and participation from all parts of your community. Seeing transportation through different lenses will better serve the community as a whole and provide an outlet for civic engagement. (Learn more about engaging different sectors in walkability planning at Every Body Walk)
Lesson #7: Start walking and biking everywhere and everyday! Setting a good example is important. It also shows people you are serious about the cause and can create a positive buzz in the community. Establish a volkswalking group, learn about getting schools involved in Safe Routes to School programs, and start building relationships with any existing biking and walking coalitions. (Never heard of volkswalking? Check out the American Volkssporting Association today!)
Is your community taking steps towards a more walkable and bikable community? Do you live in a rural community that is adapting urban policies and strategies? We want to hear from you! Click the bubble above the video and share your stories with the Commons network.
Did You Know?
2,000 = the approximate number of steps it takes to walk a mile
5,000 or less = the average number of steps per day of a sedentary person
5,117 = the average number of steps per day in America
9,695 = the average number of steps per day in Australia
10,000 = the recommended number of steps per day to stay active and healthy