5 Simple Things You Can Do Make Your City More Walkable

There has been a lot of talk about walkability recently. Research links walkability with safer, healthier communities, but obviously, not all cities currently enjoy highly walkable neighborhoods.

The good news is that more and more cities are beginning to think seriously about investing in more walkable infrastructure.

This trend is leading many planners and community leaders to consider questions like: How does one evaluate walkability in the first place? And what kinds of improvements can we make NOW? Both are great questions! To get started, below we’ve listed some simple ways to increase walkability in your city.

5 simple ways to increase city walkability:

  1. Know your city's walkability score. The first and most important step to increasing the walkability in your city is to find out how walkable your community is today. Whether you do this through conducting a walkability audit of your community, or through running a quick walkability analysis through mySidewalk, it’s important to know where your community stands so you can proceed accordingly.

Below is a map of Kansas City as an example. Walkability scores start out at 1 and go up to 20, with 1 being low walkability and 20 being high walkability. We can see that Kansas City scores a walkability average of 10.02. The white box in the right corner also shows us that walkability is negatively correlated with the percentage of owner-occupied housing—which implies that the more walkable a place is, the less homeownership exists. One of the factors behind this correlation could be because the millennial population tends to flock to walkable places, and also because millennials tend to rent rather than buy homes.

As you use your mouse to interact the map, you’ll notice that different census tracts score different walkability numbers. Log in to mySidewalk and apply the Walkability Index dataset to a map of your city to see what your score is, or simply request your city's score here. Once you know which areas of your community are walkable and which are struggling, you can make more informed decisions about what kind of improvements are needed and where.

2. Install red light cameras. Vehicles who run red lights pose a serious risk to pedestrians. Red light cameras snap a photo of the offending vehicle, then send a ticket to the driver. They are a quick and relatively inexpensive way to cut down on cars speeding through stoplights, and their subsequent danger to pedestrians. 

3. Plant broad-leaf trees along sidewalks. People are more likely to walk to their destinations if they have shelter from the sun and rain. Planting trees with broad or long leaves can help cut down on heat and rain, making walking a more pleasant and inviting experience for pedestrians. 

4. Use data to understand who uses city roads. Ensuring safety for pedestrians through sidewalk and intersection improvements makes communities more walkable and enjoyable for everyone. But in order to improve corridors, cities first must understand who uses the roads, when, and where they're going when they do use them. As an example, the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, who has been working with various partners to assess corridor safety, recently partnered with mySidewalk to gain access to data surrounding who uses the corridors and for what purpose. Understanding the demographics and economics surrounding local corridor usage can greatly help cities understand how to improve safety and boost walkability. 

5. Make walking safer with simple sidewalk fixes, such as adding lighting, trimming back obstructing hedges, and fixing broken pavement. These kinds of repairs can go a long way in making sidewalks more inviting. Ensuring that sidewalks are wide enough for wheelchairs is also important, so that people living with disabilities are able to get to their destinations without relying on personal vehicles or other types of transportation.

There are many other ways to enhance walkability, but what’s important is to simply start (even if that start is relatively small, like fixing broken sidewalks and trimming back hedges). How does your community enhance walkability? Let us know in the comments below!

So, how walkable is your community?

Fill out the form below and we'll use the EPA Walkability Index to provide you with a score for your community between 1 and 20, with 1 being low walkability and 20 being high walkability. If you're interested, we'll also compare your score to 2-3 other places you're interested in learning more about.  

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If you're interested, list 2-3 places you'd like to compare your community's walkability score to.
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mySidewalk is a city intelligence tool that helps analysts track, analyze, and communicate progress on department and citywide goals. Our mission is to empower city leaders and the public with the most complete, clear, and real-time understanding of community data so they can improve and innovate together. You work hard for your data. What’s it doing for you?

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Lauren French has worked in the tech world as a marketing and content professional for the past two years. She earned a master’s degree in public relations from Michigan State University and holds an English degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not thinking about marketing and content creation, Lauren enjoys binge-watching Netflix shows and drinking as much coffee as possible. She is also over-the-top obsessed with her two dogs, Hutch and Marty.