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Step by Step: Five Strategies for Building a Pedestrian-Friendly Community

Indigo - Meristem Communities

What is a pedestrian-friendly community?

This may seem obvious, but pedestrian friendly communities are attractive, comfortable, and safe places that support the end-users, people. Creating a true pedestrian-friendly community is more than building sidewalks. They support people of all ages and abilities, day and night. Well designed streetscapes, parks and green spaces encourage people to walk, bike and engage in mass-transportation, reducing the dependency on vehicles.

The Plant - Concept Neighborhood

Why are walkable communities important?

Improved Quality of Life

A walkable community can improve an individual's quality of life. They allow and encourage people to walk to the places that support their daily needs, such as work, school, shops, and parks. This can result in a variety of benefits, including improved physical and mental health and increased social interactions. According to numerous studies, people who live in walkable communities are more physically active, which can lead to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Walking can also benefit mental health by reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

Increased Sense of Community

Living in a walkable neighborhood helps foster a sense of community by encouraging social interactions and connections amongst neighbors. These interactions can occur on your front porch, sidewalk, or at walkable amenities like restaurants, parks, and shops. Access to resources and services that are within walking distance can improve local economies and help reduce transportation costs.

Positive Effects on the Environment

Pedestrian friendly communities encourage people to walk and bike, reducing their reliance on vehicles. The obvious environmental impacts include air pollution reduction and improved air quality. But as communities transition from a vehicular dominated realm to a pedestrian friendly one, the infrastructure that once supported vehicles can be reduced. This allows for people-centric and nature-based amenities like parks and greenways. This in turn can improve natural ecosystems and water quality.

Roberts Row - Concept Neighborhood

Five strategies for building a Pedestrian-Friendly Community

Whether you are retrofitting an urban neighborhood or building a new community in the suburbs consider these five strategies for building a successful pedestrian-friendly community:

Comfortable Connections

Streets should prioritize pedestrian and bicycle access over vehicles. Leverage existing networks and connections like bike trails, mass transportation, and greenways. Consider integrating traffic-calming, people-first infrastructure like bulb-outs on corners and elevated/table-top intersections at pedestrian crossings. If possible, look for opportunities to reduce the street width. These are all ways to prioritize pedestrian use while slowing down traffic.

Desireable Destinations

Consider… where are people going to walk to? Provide a variety of destinations that are easily accessible and close together. Destinations may include parks, retail, restaurants, and other public spaces. These elements may already exist in the urban environment when retrofitting an existing neighborhood. When building a new suburban community look for opportunities to create a distinct community core that may have some or all of these elements.

Create an Experience for All

Provide access to sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transportation. Keep in mind that streetscapes and sidewalks are often less about the destination and more about the journey. Support people’s journey by providing shade (trees), seating opportunities, activity nodes, and adequate lighting. These elements provide comfort while supporting people of all abilities, day and night.

Greenways for Gathering

Not only consider adding pocket and neighborhood parks to your community, be conscious about how the users experience the space between destinations. Parks allow people to be more active and engage with people and the environment. Parks could end up underutilized if the streetscapes and walking corridors that connect these green amenities do not create a desirable nor comfortable experience to get people to their final destination.

Convert and Reduce Vehicular-Oriented Spaces Into Something Valuable

Many cities are removing or reducing minimum parking requirements in urban areas allowing once vehicular-dominated infrastructure to be converted into pedestrian-friendly places. Turn over-engineered right of ways into shaded greenways. Look for opportunities to convert parking lots into parks and/or walkable retail amenities for the community. If you are building a new community, reduce street widths, and build pedestrian-friendly infrastructure like bike trails, parks, and other walkable destinations.

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