Every single business has a large parking lot in front of it, rather than more buildings that could house economically productive businesses. A growing body of evidence suggests that urban design plays an important role in promoting physical activity. 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. They also looked at the incidence of smoking and fruit and vegetable consumption. Our bodies weren’t designed to sit all day. This brings me to Talen and Koschinsky's work. But streets where walking is easy and safe are not just economically significant because of their impact on retail sales or tax values. Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works. Streets where walking is safe and easy are streets where businesses usually thrive. All rights reserved. We’ve got data unequivocally showing that people-oriented streets are more economically productive than auto-oriented streets — from big cities to small towns, from the heartland to the South. With each of these variables defined, it’s also important to ask why walkability is so important. (Before diving in further, I have to say that slogging through academic literature is not for the timid. In fact, the researchers contend, both the macro and the micro scales are relevant: "Adults spend most of their waking hours away from home. 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. “As Boomers Age, Walkable Cities Become More Important” by Henry Grabar Henry Grabar captures a unique look at the push for a change in how we shape our cities. These include investments in walkable neighborhoods and business start-ups, personal health benefits, more safety, and more accessibility. Why are downtowns important and why the need for all of these revitalization strategies? Why is Walkability Important. Why is this important for cities? Most, although not all, meta-analyses summarizing these relationships have concluded that there are strong correlations overall." He was a featured speaker at the 2017 AARP Livable Communities National Conference and is the author of "Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places," published by Island Press. Walkable City is like David's presentations. Kaid's latest book is People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities. 3 dollars and cents arguments that definitively prove the need for people-oriented, walk-friendly places. Such developments have many benefits but may not be optimal for public health . They are also economically significant because of their incredibly high return on public investment. Trained in dialogue facilitation and mediation, she is devoted to building understanding across lines of difference. Ewing and his colleagues discuss, as they should, the abundance of factors other than land use that affect health. In addition to the usual complex mathematical equations, one encounters terms such as "eigenvalue," "log-likelihood ratios," "construct validity," and "link-to-node ratio." We know from exhaustive past research that walkable neighborhoods and cities reduce driving, associated emissions, and living costs. A number of studies have confirmed this over the last several years. According to their research, the nation’s 10 most walkable cities are: According to their research, the nation’s 10 most walkable cities are: . 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." 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 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. The most sprawling counties are outlying counties of large metropolitan areas, or component counties of smaller metropolitan areas." 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. If one could walk in a straight line, they might be only a five minute walk from each other. 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. Cities around the world are changing to become more “walkable”. 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 » As it turns out, this proposition was supported in the next study. There is not a single visual image in the book, and really only a handful of verbal descriptions of successful walkable places. We support a strong America full of strong cities, towns and neighborhoods. Let's say we want to travel from a restaurant to a Toys R Us store in a standard suburban environment. Thank you to Urban3 for sharing these graphics with us.). Walkable cities are livable built environments which lead to whole happy and healthy lives for the people who live in them. Please share with others to use for good. Here’s what those city center spikes look like for the average person walking…. In truth, you don’t really need a study to tell you these things. 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.". In particular, the research, which examines different aspects of compact, walkable, and mixed-use communities and compares those aspects to published government health data, finds that such neighborhoods and cities are strongly associated with reduced rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Our work is performed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Crosswalks are spaced far apart, if there are any at all. Finally, walkable neighborhoods in city after city across the country demonstrate far greater tax revenue per square foot than any other type of development. Investing in walkable cities, whether through allocating funds to repaint pedestrian walkways or building affordable housing close to downtowns, also attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. Of course, walkability is no surprise in a city where a short trip on any subway puts visitors within easy walking distance of world-class restaurants, shops, and theaters. (In the case of the Lafayette map, taller green plots are revenue positive for the city while taller red plots are revenue negative.). The businesses in the first photo get to use all of their space for actually conducting business — serving food, selling products, and so on. 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. We know from exhaustive past research that walkable neighborhoods and cities reduce driving, associated emissions, and living costs. This means that our cities can in … 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. 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. Our work is performed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. 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. Urban planners of countries like Denmark and the Netherlands paid more attention to design more bike-friendly passageways and bridges. 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. "[B]etter health outcomes are more strongly associated with living in a compact city than a compact neighborhood surrounded by a sparse city. Because downtowns are the heart of a city and region — and having a healthy heart is essential to having a strong city and region. 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. There are many reasons why walkability is important, such as reducing fossil fuel usage and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Manage Parking Effectively . These are all valid arguments and may convince some of those reading this article that walkability is important. (Recall that street accessibility, a closely related measure, was one of the four factors studied by Ewing's team at the county level.). Walkable Cities. Move your cursor over the images for credit information. 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. This pattern repeats itself in towns and cities across America. As more and more people move to cities, the benefits of encouraging people to walk are clear. 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. (Disclosure: Ewing is a personal friend. As it pertains to real estate, however, there are two main reasons to consider. Rachel Quednau serves as Program Director managing the content team at Strong Towns, as well as hosting our Bottom-Up Revolution Podcast. Why We Walk. This refers to a city or neighborhood’s conduciveness to pedestrian activity. Indeed, government data indicate that 36 percent of adults are now classified as obese, and 17 percent of youth are obese. The only greenery in the images is empty lawns that serve no purpose. To find out why people choose to walk, we can look at places and spaces that have successfully drawn their share of walkers. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband Jack and two pet rabbits. Look After the Pedestrian . Read more about our efforts to #SlowtheCars. 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. No trees shade the sidewalk. People spend more money when cities are less vehicle-oriented. 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 Is Walkability Important? They keep jobs and attract young adults, families and children (www.walkable.org). They also have efficient and affordable means of public transportation. The researchers note that "the most compact counties are as expected, central counties of large, older metropolitan areas. Walkable communities provide the opportunity to incorporate more activity into everyday life, by walking to and from work, taking a stroll to a local restaurant for dinner or running errands on foot. 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. The two streets below— one people-oriented and one auto-oriented — illustrate this clearly. Three important academic studies published earlier this year demonstrate that they are good for our health, too. Noted urban economist Edward Glaeser recently described cities … 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. Kaid Benfield writes about community, development, and the environment on Huffington Post and in other national media. But these new studies add to the growing evidence that they are significant contributing factors. . 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. 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. Some walkable American cities beat them all: New York, San Francisco and Portland all have fatality rates under 3.0. Senior Counsel for Environmental Strategies, PlaceMakers LLC. 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. Three important academic studies published earlier this year demonstrate that they are … Businesses on the edge of town require large signage that can be seen from inside a fast-moving vehicle. What is the value of a street where people can walk safely? 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. In summary – Urban green infrastructure is an essential element and tool in creating walkable streets and places in cities and towns. After controlling for other potential influences, the Marshall team arrived at findings remarkably similar to those of the Ewing team: "We control for the food environment, land uses, commuting time, socioeconomic status, and street design. How Walkable Communities Are Good for Us. My only knowledge of the study, though, is through reading the report in the peer-reviewed journal Health & Place.). 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. (Citations omitted.). Some — and only some — cities are becoming more walkable because they understand that their sustainability (economic, health, and environmental) depends on … . 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. Contents What Makes a City Walkable. 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. 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. 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. Access to healthy foods may be more difficult in sprawling environments.". 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. Street networks can have a profound effect on the amount of walking that takes place in a community. In addition there is good evidence to show that improving walking and cycling environments raises private property values by significant amounts. 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. 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. When we build for cars, we get low-value developments. 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. Why building walkable cities is the key to economic success . 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. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. 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. The result is that the urban core is almost always financially propping up the entire city. ... 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. 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). Holiday Plans Florence. 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. 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. 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. 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. In the study, they controlled for gender, age, race and ethnicity, income, and educational attainment. 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. 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. 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. The researchers also examined asthma rates, but did not find any statistically significant correlation between asthma and street networks. ©2021 Verizon Media. Plant Trees . #3 – Why are walkable cities important? Trees offer shade to people walking (especially important in warmer climates like Louisiana and southern California). Walkable places prioritize people rather than automobiles when designing their surroundings. Walkable Cities . While, as noted, the different researchers involved in the three studies assess different characteristics of urban form, all generally accept the definition put forth by Arizona State University researchers Emily Talen and Julia Koschinsky in the opening paragraph of their study: "It is a neighborhood type defined by services within walking distance of residents, a pedestrian orientation that minimizes car dependence, and a level of density and land-use diversity that is higher than the typical American suburb . A sprawling metropolitan area produces long commutes, which cut into leisure time and hence physical activity. Restrict and Restrain the Car . Indeed, in 2009, our friend Joe Cortright conducted a study that revealed: “In the typical market, an additional one point increase in Walk Score was associated with between a $500 and $3,000 increase in home values.” (Walk Score is an online system that ranks how walk-friendly a particular location is.). Philadelphia is considered the 4th most walkable city as of 2020 with a walkability score of 79 by the group Walk Score. 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. Walkable Cities – Why they are good for the economy, according to a city planner. 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. ", 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.". 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. 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. 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. Those initial investments we made a century ago are paying amazing dividends today. The higher the score, the more walkable an area is. (Top photo source: Dewita Soeharjono. The results were tabulated at both the neighborhood scale and the city scale. One in three children is overweight or obese, triple the number from a generation ago. Quite simply because walkable cities are, by definition, sustainable cities. New, 20 comments. But I digress. ), Compactness versus sprawl at the county scale. Over 68 percent of American adults are now overweight or obese, a percentage that has more than doubled since 1960. The remainder showed no clear positive or negative effect; none showed a negative effect. In the first photo, we see that just one side of this walkable block is occupied by more than a dozen businesses, most of which have apartments or offices above them.