Deep Walkability for Sustainable Cities

On WorldChanging Alex Steffen writes about Deep Walkability

Walkability is clearly critical to bright green cities. You can’t advocate for car-free or car-sharing lives if people need cars to get around, and the enticement to walk is key to making density wonderful, to providing realistic transit options, to making smaller greener homes compelling and to growing the kind of digitally-suffused walksheds that post-ownership ideas seem to demand. So knowing how to define “walkable” is important.

…The big thing I think falls out of most walkability formulas is a quality critical to the actual experience of walkability, and that’s the extent to which the place in which you live is connected (by walking routes and easy transit) to other places worth walking to.

…The true test of walkability I think is this: Can you spend a pleasant half hour walking or on transit and end up at a variety of great places? The quality of having a feast of options available when you walk out your front door is what I starting to think of as “deep walkability.”

It’s this deep walkability that ought to be the top priority driving urban design and development in our communities. We ought to be looking at how to knit our walkable communities together and how to make friendlier the unwalkable streets between them.

In most cities, serious walkers (and bikers) share stories about the routes they’ve taken, hidden paths through the fractured landscape that let you walk safely and happily from one people-centered place to another. A killer urban ap would be one that revealed these urban songlines. A smart urban policy would be one that aimed to weave new walking routes through the whole urban fabric, until places walkers feared to tread were the exception rather than the expectation.

Alex also points to a New York Times article Street Corners vs. Cul de Sacs that the property values of walkable neighbourhoods have been more resilience to the bursting of the US property bubble.

A study published in August by C.E.O.’s for Cities, a group of urban redevelopment advocates, found that in many ways, the street corner beats the cul de sac. It looked at the sales of 90,000 homes in 15 markets to estimate how much value was associated with something called the Walk Score. Using a 100-point scale, this score rates the number of destinations, including libraries, parks and coffee shops, within walking distance of a home.

…The study found that houses with above-average Walk Scores commanded a premium. It was as much as $30,000 in cities like Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Sacramento and San Francisco, wrote Joe Cortright, the study’s author and an economist at Impresa, a consulting firm in Portland, Ore.

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