Walk ability

Measure of How Friendly an Area is to Walking

Walk ability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. walk ability has many health, environmental, and economic benefits. However, evaluating walk ability is challenging because it requires the consideration of many subjective factors. Factors influencing walk ability include the presence or absence and quality of sidewalks or other pedestrian right-of-ways, traffic and road conditions, land use patterns, building accessibility, and safety, among others. walk ability is an important concept in sustainable urban design.

Definitions

One proposed definition for walk ability is: "The extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area". Factors affecting walk ability include, but are not limited to: land use mix; street connectivity; residential density (residential units per area of residential use); "transparency" which includes amount of glass in windows and doors, as well as orientation and proximity of homes and buildings to watch over the street; plenty of places to go to near the majority of homes; place making, street designs that work for people, not just cars and retail floor area ratio. Major infrastructural factors include access to mass transit, presence and quality walkways, buffers to moving traffic (planter strips, on-street parking or bike lanes) and pedestrian crossings, aesthetics, nearby local destinations, air quality, shade or sun in appropriate seasons, street furniture, traffic volume and speed. . and wind conditions. One of the best ways to quickly determine how walkable a block, corridor or neighborhood is is to count the number of people walking, lingering and enjoying a space. The diversity of people, and especially the presence of children, seniors and people with disabilities, denotes the quality, completeness and wholesomeness of a walkable space.

Walk ability indices

Technological advances such as data mashups have led to the first large-scale, public-access walk ability index, walkscore.com. "When you enter an address at walkscore.com," according to the Washington Post, "a Google map appears, studded with blue icons representing nearby restaurants, stores, schools and parks. A list at the left identifies the mapped destinations and their distance from your starting point." In addition to the map, the website provides a "walk score," or walk ability index, between 0 and 100. Scores above 90 indicate excellent walk ability, whereas isolated addresses with no destination in walking range receive scores 25 and lower. At present, the index represents chiefly U.S. locations, but is developing global capability.

The New Zealand government agency for Land based Transport, Transport New Zealand, has commissioned research and developed its own methodology and tools for assessing walk ability. The method is based on the concept of level of service, which is commonly used by transport planners. The walk ability tools that have been developed in New Zealand store information collected during a community street review and produce level of service values for a study area usually consisting of a series of road path lengths and road crossings within a small area. According to the website levelofservice.com, "A Community Street Review is a new survey technique where a Community Street Audit is combined with a numerical rating system." The website also provides a simplified level of service calculator for anyone to undertake a community street review and produce level of service calculations from it.

Benefits of walk ability

walk ability indices have been found to correlate with both Body mass index and physical activity of local populations. Due to discrepancies between residents' health in inner city neighborhoods and suburban neighborhoods with similar walk ability measures, it has been suggested that further research is needed to find additional built environment factors to be included in walk ability indices.

Increased walk ability has proven to have many other individual and community health benefits, such as opportunities for increased social interaction, an increase in the average number of friends and associates where people live, reduced crime (with more people walking and watching over neighborhoods, open space and main streets), increased sense of pride, and increased volunteerism. walk ability has also been found to have many economic benefits, including accessibility, cost savings both to individuals and to the public, increased efficiency of land use, increased livability, economic benefits from improved public health, and economic development, among others.

The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research released a report that new developments should be designed to encourage walking, on the grounds that walking contributes to a reduction of cancer.

Community planning

Many communities have embraced pedestrian mobility as an alternative to older building practices that favor automobiles. Reasons for this shift include a belief that dependency on automobiles is ecologically unsustainable, automobile-oriented environments engender dangerous conditions to both motorists and pedestrians and are generally bereft of aesthetics. Auto-focused designs also diminish walking and needed "eyes on the street" provided by the steady presence of people in an area. Reduced walking also reduces social interaction, mixing of populations and pride in streets and other civic space. A principal justification for walk ability, as a consideration in urban design and planning, is founded upon evolutionary and philosophical grounds, contending that gait has been vital to the cerebral development in humans. After millennia of human development firmly based upon gait, twentieth century automotive and automated metropolis has separated between walking and thinking, and in this sense it has become an agent of regression rather than human progress. walk ability, therefore, is offered as a critical component in contemporary urban design considerations, with implications far beyond the scope of current concerns. 

See also

  • Bicycle-friendly
  • Fused Grid
  • New Pedestrianism
  • New Urban Cowboy: Toward a New Pedestrianism
  • New Urbanism
  • Pedestrian Village
  • Permeability (spatial and transport planning)

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