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Old 04-27-2014, 08:38 AM
 
Location: Central CT, sometimes NH.
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Here are some great examples and a perspective of walkability from Steve Mouzon. It's not just distance and crosswalks, interest and composition are key components.

Walk Appeal | the Original Green | Steve Mouzon
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Old 04-27-2014, 11:23 AM
 
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"Walkability" is an intangible benefit that is based on a number of factors, it isn't just a single factor. It's also not an either/or condition--there is no hard and fast "this is walkable/this is unwalkable" line, but a matter of degree.

Generally, I'd define a "walkable" place as one where most of a person's daily activities can be performed on foot with a relative measure of convenience and safety. The harder it is to accomplish routine activities within a short walking distance, or the more often one has to get into a car to perform routine tasks, the less walkable a place is.

The factors that contribute to walkability include:

* Population density. More people in a small area provides enough demand for economic activity to locate businesses in their neighborhood. If nobody lives there, it can't be a walkable place, because only people walk--nor is a place walkable if people's only access is to drive there, walk around, and drive home. Note that this is not an absolute either/or condition--a neighborhood that is predominantly single-family homes can be quite walkable if it meets other conditions, especially if the homes are on small lots. Features like granny flats on an alley or small-scale duplexes can provide a lot of "hidden density" in a neighborhood that still looks like single-family homes to the casual observer.

* Safe pedestrian paths. This means sidewalks, walking streets, plazas and other surfaces where people can walk. Safety is also a matter of degree, but some of the factors in safety include stability and smoothness of the surface (for universal access and trip hazards), safety features that allow people and cars to interact safely, activities that promote "eyes on the street" like front windows, porches and sidewalk uses (people feel safe where there are other people doing things vs. being alone on the street), cover and shade, and accessibility for the disabled. Without safety, parents don't want their kids living there--and kids playing on the street/sidewalk are an "indicator species" of a neighborhood that is walkable and safe.

* Mixed use. Not every lot or every block has to have multiple uses, but they should be located close enough for access on foot. This doesn't mean high-end boutiques, in fact the most prosaic uses like small grocery stores, laundromats, copy shops and barbershops are the most important for retail uses. Professional offices are also important, either free-standing offices in commercial or mixed-use buildings, live/work offices for professionals that can work from home or telecommuters, or "co-working" spaces where multiple small businesspeople share office space. And of course, putting apartments or offices on top of retail stores gets more use out of commercial lots and adds a lot of hidden density.

* Alternative means of leaving the neighborhood and connecting to other neighborhoods. This can mean bike paths/lanes, bike rentals, public transit (bus or fixed rail), car-sharing facilities, or taxis. Neighborhoods don't function entirely independently of the greater economy, so they need ways for their residents to get around, whether or not they do so by car. Having the factors above helps make it easier to serve the neighborhood via these other transit modes.

This is not a universal definition, and these are not the only factors in walkability. They can be expressed in big cities and small towns equally well. Just a few thoughts on the most obvious factors that come into play, rather than getting into the weeds about specific curb heights, block sizes and population densities.
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Old 04-27-2014, 11:36 AM
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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While it's hard to come up with a general number, and many other factors come into play, a minimum of 10-12/sq mile at the census tract / block level is roughly a good lower bound for most residents to be in walking distance to amenities. Using Long Island as an example, this was the level where most were in 1/2 mile of a commercial district* and these commercial arterials had frequent bus service. Here's an example:

Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Most of the residents in this suburb are within 1/2 mile of a commercial area. I typed "restaurants" as a way to highlight the commercial areas:

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=resta...staurants&z=14
It's mostly detached homes on smaller lots (4000-5500 square feet) thought there a few smaller apartment buildings mixed in. You could probably find lower density neighborhoods that might fit, but it becomes rarer with lower density and more people won't be in walking distance.

*1/2 mile may be a bit of a high thershold, but it's to any commercial district, not necesarily where people want to go.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:11 PM
 
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When most people talk about walkable cities, they're talking about cities in which lots of people actually do a lot of walking. "Walkable" is a bit of a misnomer here, because that connotes an emphasis on whether one can walk, and subordinates the reasons that people do walk. A lack of sidewalks makes walking more difficult, and their presence makes a place more walkable, but few people walk very far in the suburbs, because unless you have friends living nearby, there's no where to go.
-- For most people, having destinations nearby is crucial. Public transportation also helps, because it can place people in parts of a city where there are lots of retail shops, medical facilities, government offices, etc, without being leashed to a parking space. When you drive to an area of a city and walk around, at the end of the trip, one has to walk back to the parking space to retrieve one's car. With public transit, you can just walk to the stop closest to where your walk ends up.
-- In some respects, walkable cities (in the usual sense) are not the safest cities. A city like Houston has wide streets that segregate pedestrians from car traffic, but no one walks in Houston. Older cities are compact, and pedestrians, cars, and cyclists are all in close proximity. Walkable cities have a lot of jaywalking, which can be done well or badly, and if city planners get to control-freaky in their safety planning, they ruin the walkability of a city. Large pedestrian-only plazas in areas where the only nearby parking costs $20 or $30 discourage people from driving to them. Cities in which lots of people actually walk require more attention for all involved. Eye contact between pedestrians, cyclists, and pedestrians is an important safety practice that's not necessary where these populations are segregated and regulated, but when one gets too carried away with making a city safe, fewer people are going to be walking when other options are available.
-- Fortunately, most newcomers to compact cities learn quickly to pay attention. A contrary trend is the emphasis on "my rights" that makes people more self-centered and militant. In my city, there are militant pedestrians-- mothers with kids in strollers who seem to think that their motherhood entitles them to cross anywhere, anytime (usually these are older mothers in their 40s and 50s); pedestrians who assume that the presence of a crosswalk gives them the right of way despite a "Don't Walk" signal, and the city went to a picture of a red hand for the illiterates, to no avail. The only relevant right these people have is the right not to be punished for their stupidity and arrogance with automotive corporal or capital punishment. There are militant cyclists who exercise that same "right" when they engage in annual or monthly shows of force by blocking off the roads in large numbers, relying on drivers' reluctance to hit them while insulting them for it. And then there are the might-makes-right drivers who intimidate both cyclists and pedestrians. In a heavily politicized climate, there's a presumptuousness that convinces many that their safety and forward progress should take precedence over others'. The potential for victimhood can be used as a political weapon, and often is.
-- Walkability requires compactness of cities, but a less politicized population, less presumptuousness, more civility, and more attentiveness all help, too.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:23 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 Litehop743 View Post
When most people talk about walkable cities, they're talking about cities in which lots of people actually do a lot of walking.
Agreed, though it seems on the forum it's often used differently.

Quote:
-- In some respects, walkable cities (in the usual sense) are not the safest cities. A city like Houston has wide streets that segregate pedestrians from car traffic, but no one walks in Houston. Older cities are compact, and pedestrians, cars, and cyclists are all in close proximity. Walkable cities have a lot of jaywalking, which can be done well or badly, and if city planners get to control-freaky in their safety planning, they ruin the walkability of a city.
Except cities where few walk generally unsafer for pedestrians despite having far fewer pedestrians. Faster car traffic, less safe intersections, and drivers that don't expect pedestrians all lead to a higher death rate.

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811888.pdf

See table 9 (page 8)

Boston has the lowest pedestrian death rate on the list, despite having a high number of pedestrians compared to most American cities. New York City has almost double the fatality rate, but a somewhat higher portion of people walk rather than drive. Cities like Houston and Phoenix have higher pedestrian fatality rates. Most of the sunbelt-type cities also score high in total motor vehicle death rate (those in cars + pedestrians). Cities like Boston, DC, San Francisco and NYC have some of the lowest motor vehicle fatality rates. NYC's low auto death rate is probably a combination of fewer people driving plus slow traffic speeds.

from the NYC DOT website:

80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:27 PM
 
Location: North Carolina
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This is an interesting question. I moved to NC four years ago and, until then, I had never seen a neighborhood without sidewalks. We have a pool in our community so everyone walks in the street to get there. I drive to the pool because of mobility issues, but I might have considered walking IF we had sidewalks as my children are still little. Drivers are careful and walkers move, but it still feels weird to me to not have sidewalks. I'll have to learn to adjust somehow.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:40 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Where'd you move from?
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:42 PM
 
Location: North Carolina
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Me? Chicago. I lived in the city growing up, but moved to the north suburbs after that. I'm guessing you asked to point out there are sidewalk-less places everywhere. I could be wrong on that, though. I have been thinking about it and I don't recall ever seeing that anywhere I've been in the Chicago area.
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Old 04-27-2014, 03:25 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 17 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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I guess my thoughts on "walkability" are less global than some on here.

My definition is "if you can walk there safely" it's walkable, and I'm thinking more of getting from Point A to Point B rather than- is this city, neighborhood, metro area, etc walkable? In my definition, walkability generally (take note of that word) includes sidewalks and crosswalks plus crossing lights on roads with heavy traffic. Distance is an issue, something located much more than a mile away is probably not walkable on a regular basis, but may be so in some circumstances. I do not include transit in walkability unless talking about walking to/from transit. If your destination is 5 miles away, and you walk to the bus stop and then take the bus, that's not walking.
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Old 04-27-2014, 03:52 PM
 
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If you were to measure a county's walkability to try and determine how it's improved (or not) over time, what measure would you use (excluding walkscore)? Do you think American Community Survey Census data looking at % of people who walk or take transit to work is best? Or trying to get data on quality of sidewalks (which seems hard to find)?

Anyone have any thoughts on the best "performance measures" to use when trying to gauge an area's walkability over time?
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