Congratulations, you’ve made it to the final lesson on Walkability 101!
We’ve been discovering paths toward walkability while reading Jeff Speck’s Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time. Let’s recap. Walkability (anywhere) requires comfortable and safe pedestrians. Comfort and safety motivate one to walk, especially if the walk is useful (like walking to the post office). What places are you excited to walk? Take a second, remember. Are those places interesting?
The Interesting Walk| Summertime in New England is a perfect time to walk. You walk to join your friends picnicking at the park. You enjoy your café au lait at the coffee shop while watching others stroll past. You and your neighbor seek shade under a street tree on the sidewalk while chatting. An interactive streetscape inspires and engages. Here, people share experiences. Here, niches of community culture blossom.
Throughout his book, Speck explains reasons why components of walkability- like light rail or “green” buildings- fail at creating walkability when considered independently. These ideas support walkability, however, they must be considered in context. For example, bike racks at an airport only accessible by highway probably won’t encourage anyone to bike to his next flight. Likewise, not everything will work for every place nor is every place destined to be just like NYC ( ie. most walkable City 2015).
Build walkability by starting with what is attainable, logistically and culturally. Just as Speck says, “pick your winners.” Incorporating one basic component, like safety, will lead to more opportunities for everyone and more interesting walks.
If you and others in your community want walkability to happen, participate in discussions, volunteer and be involved. Seek advice from other NH towns and cities, like New Boston or Keene, that have adopted walkability principles. Refer to resources like Southern NH Planning Commission’s Walkability Toolkit for hints, too! Outdated zoning regulations can be changed to meet the changing character of any community.
You can spark the change.
Get out there, New Hampshire. Summer brings community fun and the perfect opportunity to notice if where you walk is truly walkable or not. While you’re out there, pick up a copy of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. We recommend it. The mystery of walkability can be solved by returning the focus to the machines we know best—humans.
What is your community’s walkscore? Find out HERE.