There is a Need for Interesting/Important Destinations within Walking Distance

As obvious as it may seem, giving people a reason to go walking does play a big part in whether people will walk in a particular neighborhood. Mixed use neighborhoods (where residential is near or mixed in with retail/commercial uses) tend to support more walking than neighborhoods with only residential uses or commercial areas (where retail centers are grouped together and surrounded by a parking lot).

For instance, a study by Anne Vernez-Moudon at the University of Washington showed that walking increased based on factors which included the availability of, or distance to, various potential destinations including grocery stores, eating and drinking places, and retail stores.

To learn more about how land use and pedestrian-oriented destinations support walking, visit the Planning section.

Improving pedestrian access to destinations

One of the keys to making a neighborhood walkable is having a traditional grid system of streets with good connectivity throughout the neighborhood and to areas outside the neighborhood. This will provide for short walking trips which allow easy and efficient pedestrian access. A circuitous neighborhood layout with cul-de-sacs can make a short walk into a long, roundabout hike, discouraging walking all together. In neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs, making connections through the cul-de-sac may provide good connections, but if one does not exist when the neighborhood is initially developed, it may be hard to create at a later date.

Where paths do exist through neighborhoods or to areas outside then neighborhood, care must be taken that they are not locked off or closed by adjacent property owners. Formalizing the paths by paving them, may help to prevent encroachments that will eliminate a convenient path to school or to a market, park or transit stop.

Access to Transit

As transit tends to run along major streets, one of the key problems pedestrians have in accessing transit is getting across the street to the bus stop. Typically, a pedestrian must cross the street on either the outbound or inbound trip. A key solution to this problem is to locate transit stops on multi-lane streets only at traffic signals. However, if signals are spaced very far apart, the spacing of transit stops may be inconvenient and deter some users.

Key elements of providing good transit facilities and access to transit:

  • Install far side stops: This refers to the standard of placing bus zones on the far (downstream) side of an intersection. This placement decreases the likelihood that a pedestrian will exit and then cross in front of the bus.
  • Good lighting is key at transit stops. Not only will this increase comfort and reduce the likelihood of crime, but bus drivers need to be able to see pedestrians.
  • Providing delineation of some sort in the sidewalk area may encourage transit patrons to not block the sidewalk when waiting for a bus.
  • Provide wader sidewalks at transit stops and other amenities for the patrons (shelter, seats, etc.).
  • Make sure there is direct and convenient access to the neighborhood or the facility the transit stop is serving.

Many transit agencies cannot employ the bus lift unless there is a curb present. This means that transit stops on streets without sidewalks are often not accessible. For more information on issues with transit access, see the Transit section.

Access to parks and open space

Localities should design their communities with ample space for parks with connectivity to the neighborhoods, schools, and other pedestrian destinations. Where possible, the parks should be incorporated into a walking route to various destinations throughout the community. A major concern may be the need to maintain the park and prevent vandalism, which would encourage the agency responsible for maintaining the park to close it down during nighttime. Local agencies may want to employ community block watches to monitor conditions in parks adjacent to their neighborhoods to prevent this from happening and organize periodic clean-up activities to show that they will protect and help maintain the park. Parks remain a highly desirable walking destination for exercise and leisure activities and access should be retained for this use.