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Old 10-03-2013, 05:47 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles area
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Disclaimer: I would not consider giving up my car unless absolutely forced to. I like driving - always have and always will. And I highly value the freedom and convenience of my car.

However, I also like to walk. I like it a whole lot, and for its own sake, its own enjoyment. Feeling virtuous about resource use is way down on the list of why I like to walk; maintaining physical fitness is way up near the top of the list.

Now, please forgive the above preamble. To proceed to the topic, I have noticed in various posts about walkability that there seems to be a tacit assumption that the average person is disabled, or crippled, and that to be considered "walkable", distances have to be extremely short.

I am 69 and I consider "within easy walking distance" to be about a mile, which I cover in 15 minutes or less depending on how many red lights I wait for. Actual practical "walking distance", provided time is no object, for me is about four miles, which I can do in about an hour. The nearest art house cinema to me is about four miles, and I like foreign films. Most of the time when I go there I take my car, but I also like to walk there on occasion, which takes me an hour each way. A good part of the distance is on a well shaded low-traffic street which winds up through some low hills - very pleasant. And we are talking within 10 or 12 miles of downtown Los Angeles. When I do walk there to see a movie, that is my exercise for the day and I don't do any other exercise that day.

Yes, I am aware that we have become a nation of couch potatoes, but certainly it must be unusual for anyone under age 70 to give any thought to having to walk four or five blocks. We simply cannot be a nation of couch potatoes to the extent of being actually crippled/disabled as a general condition of the general population!

I live about a five-minute walk from a large supermarket, and 95% of my grocery shopping trips are on foot. Sure, it limits what I can carry and increases the frequency of the trips, but I find those short walks relaxing breaks, even though they are so short they cannot be considered exercise. If they were long enough to be considered exercise, then there would be a big problem with perishables, so I remain grateful to live so close to a supermarket.

Since most of you posters who frequent this Urban Planning Forum are familiar with the technical aspects of urban planning (as I am not), perhaps you can tell me what is officially considered "easy walking distance". Based on my reading in this forum, I suspect that the official distance is based on the lowest common denominator, i.e., the heaviest of the obese, etc.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:16 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Escort Rider View Post
Since most of you posters who frequent this Urban Planning Forum are familiar with the technical aspects of urban planning (as I am not), perhaps you can tell me what is officially considered "easy walking distance". Based on my reading in this forum, I suspect that the official distance is based on the lowest common denominator, i.e., the heaviest of the obese, etc.
No, there's no "official distance"*, and I'd guess most of the posters are fairly healthy. However, anything particularly long will eat a lot of time out of your day. Walking twenty minutes (and back) to a place on a leisurely evening is one thing, but it becomes time consuming and adds up if you have to do multiple trips. It also makes a big difference how things are laid: if lots of stores are placed all together in a mini-downtown style, you can do multiple things done in one trip and the extra time doesn't seem; if you there are all scattered in different places, it's worse.

*I remember reading 10 minutes somewhere.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:41 PM
 
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GREAT topic - people get this so very wrong. Let's put an end to a pervasive myth - slapping a sidewalk on a wide road with fast traffic and zero items of interest does not make that road "walkable" - not in the urban planning context.





This is NOT walkable

Walking is a choice. For people to walk, walking must be BETTER than the alternatives. If walking isn't a better option then people wont walk and if walking is a better option then you won't be able to keep them in their cars.

So then - what makes a city walkable: 4 elements

1. A walk has to be useful - there must be things to walk to. Retail, restaurants, cafes, groceries, museums, parks, etc. etc. You must have stuff to walk to - stuff that is useful in life, stuff that enriches the soul or nourishes the body (or debases the soul and degrades the body also).

2. A walk must be safe. And just as importantly - it must be PERCEIVED as being safe as well. Safety from traffic certainly, but also safety from other kinds of threats. At night it should be well lit, there needs to be activity so that one doesn't feel as if there are no "eyes on the street" looking out in case something goes wrong. Re: traffic - auto speeds must be appropriately slow. There should be a barrier between the sidewalk and the traffic (mature street trees, or a line of street parking for example). Except that's not always true of course - on streets that the traffic has been appropriately tamed and very slow there is no need for sidewalks at all - traffic and pedestrians, bikers and transit can coexist on the same plane:



A woonerf road can be extremely walkable IF traffic is appropriately tamed. This is done through a variety of cues (cobbled streets, chicanes, tables and chairs in the road way, etc. all signal to drivers that the car is subservient to the pedestrian.

3. A walk must be comfortable. In the south - that means shade and plenty of it. It should be relatively level and free of barriers. It shouldn't involve constant egress and ingress of traffic to dodge. There MUST be stuff to walk to within a 5 minute distance of where people are. That's 1/4 of a mile. Any further than that and the number of people who will walk voluntarily drops dramatically.

4. And a walk should be interesting. The form of the city should create a sense of enclosure - an outdoor room. The buildings should front the sidewalks with pleasant and receptive facades - no blank walls, no large parking lots, etc.
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Old 10-03-2013, 06:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post

*I remember reading 10 minutes somewhere.
It's 5 minutes. Anything longer than that and the number of people who will walk VOLUNTARILY drastically decreases. At 10 minutes there are far more people who will opt to drive than walk. Any further than that and you only really get fitness walkers and the disadvantaged and only a very very few committed hardcore pedestrians who opt for walking.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:04 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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The regulars of the NYC forum gave a much higher number:

What do you consider walking distance?

some of them are discussing fitness walking, though
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
The regulars of the NYC forum gave a much higher number:

What do you consider walking distance?

some of them are discussing fitness walking, though
I'm talking about option walkers. NY doesn't really have this - almost everyone is a pedestrian there and it's very much an aberration in the US.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:05 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Komeht View Post
It's 5 minutes. Anything longer than that and the number of people who will walk VOLUNTARILY drastically decreases. At 10 minutes there are far more people who will opt to drive than walk. Any further than that and you only really get fitness walkers and the disadvantaged and only a very very few committed hardcore pedestrians who opt for walking.
I believe that is about right in the urban planning world. Studies have found that people don't want to walk more than a 1/4 mile to get anywhere. Though I think if a large number of things that can be used by someone is within 3/4 of a mile, that is also good. Though I get the whole 1/4 of a mile distance for walking.
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Old 10-03-2013, 09:15 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Komeht View Post
I'm talking about option walkers. NY doesn't really have this - almost everyone is a pedestrian there and it's very much an aberration in the US.
As for NYC, it depends on where. I thought you were talking about all walkers, anyhow. But once walking is just another option and you can park right next to your destination, you're going to get far fewer walkers. But as for being practical to walk for transportation, 5 minutes for everything is too low, and difficult to get except for rather dense places, which at that point it'll be somewhat lacking in convenient parking so than it's not "option walkers"

Those last two images you should aren't option walkers either, in the sense that those locations are unlikely to be easy to drive and park near.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
As for NYC, it depends on where. I thought you were talking about all walkers, anyhow. But once walking is just another option and you can park right next to your destination, you're going to get far fewer walkers. But as for being practical to walk for transportation, 5 minutes for everything is too low, and difficult to get except for rather dense places, which at that point it'll be somewhat lacking in convenient parking so than it's not "option walkers"

Those last two images you should aren't option walkers either, in the sense that those locations are unlikely to be easy to drive and park near.
1. I'm not sure what the point in discussing other than option walkers is. Fitness walkers walk wherever. Committed pedestrians will put up with a ton of crap that no one else will and the underprivileged have to walk.

2. The 5 minute "ped shed" is fairly well established by multiple studies. Option walkers in the US will opt to walk if and when there are places to walk to within a 5 minute walk. (Of course, once they arrive at their destination if the walk continues to be interesting, safe, useful and comfortable they'll continue to walk).

*Ped Shed Frequently asked questions

http://bettercities.net/news-opinion...umble-distance

3. I could not disagree with you more strongly that people wont walk if there is parking. When you create good walkable communities, you can't get people in their cars. And when you create bad ones, you absolutely cannot force them to walk by not providing parking - they will simply drive somewhere else.

Walkability is complex, not simple.

Last edited by Komeht; 10-03-2013 at 10:28 PM..
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:36 PM
 
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I think it is more about the four elements mentioned in Post #3 than about any specific time or distance.
If the walk is useful, safe, comfortable and interesting, I really don't care how long it is, if it is a nice sunny day, the longer the better.
And if a walk is safe, comfortable and interesting, I'll find a way to make it useful.
Sometimes just being outside is useful enough.

And if we are discussing time and or distance, who are we discussing?
My 30 year old daughter or my 90 year old mother?
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