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Today's News and Features

How to Create a More Walkable Community

Thursday, November 21, 2019

From supporting local businesses to building a sense of community to improving your health, walkable communities offer myriad benefits over places where citizens must rely on their cars. And according to Charles L. "Chuck" Marohn, Jr., author of “Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity,” there are some strategies communities can deploy to make their areas more walkable even if they weren’t designed that way in the first place. Consider working with your fellow citizens and local government on some of the following steps to get people out of their cars and strolling around town instead.      

Look into roadblocks for mixed-use neighborhoods. Do zoning laws prohibit homes and businesses from being built on the same block? Or perhaps regulatory obstacles make it difficult to obtain financing for renovation or construction of small, mixed-use buildings in walkable neighborhoods. It may be to the benefit of your community to reconsider some of these laws and regulations.

Review the condition of your Main Street. If your Main Street has become a desolate place no one frequents, it’s time to rally the community and local officials and get creative. If most of the buildings are vacant, consider a pop-up storefront initiative where local businesses can affordably set up shop. Make Main Street more pleasant for pedestrians by installing inexpensive chairs and benches.  

Create walkable destinations. Create a weekly open-air market just about anywhere by enlisting local farmers, artists or merchants. You can also set up a food truck park in an unused parking lot, or park a bookmobile in an area that's safe for kids to walk to.

Make streets pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The following steps will help make your community more welcoming and accessible to those on foot:
- Paint bike lanes to give riders a safe place to travel and reduce car traffic.
- Put up directional signs to welcome newcomers and help people find their way around.
- Install curb cuts to make sidewalk access more available to wheelchair users.
- Plant trees to give pedestrians shaded places to walk.

Add pedestrian crosswalks at unmarked intersections. Pedestrian crossing areas are vital in busy neighborhoods—especially in intersections adjacent to businesses that get a lot of foot traffic. Crosswalks and crosshatched intersections improve safety for bikers, pedestrians and drivers alike.

Widen the sidewalks. Nothing encourages walking more than wider sidewalks. Your community can experiment before committing financially by using cones and temporary fences to create a wider path for pedestrians. If the trial is successful, then new sidewalks can be installed.  

Any of these steps will help create a more vibrant, healthier community, so get involved and see if it makes sense for your town. 

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