Exploring Benefits of Walkable Neighborhoods

The past few blogs have mention in passing “walkable neighborhoods”— What exactly is a walkable neighborhood and what are its benefits?

To truly be walkable, a neighborhood has to contain certain characteristics. It first needs to have a center such as a main street, public plaza, or other public area. This ties the community together and ends up being where most businesses and shops are located, and where community events occur.

A walkable neighborhood needs to be pedestrian friendly with wide sidewalks, possible seating areas (like benches), greenery that acts as a buffer between the street, and buildings with parking behind them. This means pedestrians have to worry less about watching out for cars and can walk comfortably.

Walkable neighborhoods should be designed for a variety of transportation such as bicycles, public buses, or trains, in addition to pedestrians and automobiles. This can be accomplished more successfully and easily through street planning that is intuitive and not confusing (like a block/grid system). But with care, any type of road structure can incorporate alternate transportation. Schools and workplaces should ideally be close enough to walk to daily. This can be accomplished by bringing in mixed use buildings that have businesses below and living above. Mixed use buildings don’t have to be huge skyscrapers, but can be smaller buildings that fit well with the scale of a neighborhood. Mixed use buildings allow for affordable housing and convenience which draw more people into a community. This is important as it allows for the success of buildings and public areas.

Of course, every walkable community needs to have plenty of parks. Green spaces are good for health, add beauty to the community, and encourage play & exercise!

Can your neighborhood become a walkable community?

All of these characteristics create a community –whether it’s a downtown area or small neighborhood – that is healthy, enjoyable, memorable, and energetic. As you think about the neighborhood you live in, turning it into a walkable community might seem like an overwhelming task. But, each characteristic can be taken into consideration and incorporated one at a time or with neighborhood specific adaptations. As this happens, your neighborhood will develop into a real community you can enjoy  being an active part of now and in the future.