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Walkability: 101.3

by Michelle McDonald | Mar 15th, 2016 | Leave a comment

Welcome back! As you know, walkability has a lot of moving parts.

In Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time author Jeff Speck urges us to reconsider how we interact with the street. Instead of defaulting to the car-crowded, congested strip malls, we can create safe and interactive streetscapes where the pedestrian fits – and fits comfortably. Speck notes, evolutionary psychologists tell us how all animals seek two things: prospect and refuge.1 Increasing comfort and finding the balance between open and enclosed space of a street, shapes sense of place, community identify and the local economy. In what ways can your community get comfy?

Concord 017
image source: Art Concord

Think Main Street| Communities across the country have been investing in “Main Street” programs that revitalize downtown arteries. Sidewalks or crosswalks, pocket parts or community squares, street-side shopping or outdoor dining: there are many options that can bring people together and ensure investment pay-off. According to a PlaceEconomics study on the Main Street Iowa Program, local governments in Iowa gained $10.8 million in revenue every year in property taxes from their Main Street rehabilitation efforts. Check out the Main Street initiatives in New Hampshire like those in Rochester, Ossippee and Concord.

Celebrate History| In New England, we often see colonial architecture and enchanting covered bridges. Why preserve those structures? Historic preservation can attract tourists, create jobs, provide tax incentives and be a great way to relish in your community’s uniqueness. Visit sources like NH Preservation Alliance and NH Division of Historical Resources to discover how your community can support its historic resources for both tourists and locals to enjoy. These active agencies (and Plan NH members!) provide information about grants, historic district tax credits, registering historic districts and more.

bs2bgPlant Trees| Like we mentioned in Walkability 101.2, more street activity means more cautious drivers. Street trees are additional objects that alert drivers and create a buffer for pedestrians. Trees provide a variety of other benefits. Economically, they increase property value. They reduce traffic noise and provide invaluable natural services by reducing air and water pollutants. In fact 1 tree can absorb 48 lbs of CO2 per year, and for every 5% tree cover added to a community, storm water is reduced by 2%. And, BONUS: trees provide psychological benefits by reducing stress and evoking feelings of happiness.

Next time you’re walking at home or visiting another community, notice your place within the built environment. What buildings, sidewalks, trees or opportunities are or aren’t present? Reflect.

Do you feel comfortable?

Stay tuned for the last session Walkability 101. Until then here are additional resources…

Project for public spaces

Main Street Preservation

1 Speck, 213.