We talk about walkability ALL THE TIME. I talk about it in real estate. I talked about it while at EVOKE. I talk about it in city meetings, with developers, with community members and everyone else.
Here is how Wikipedia defines “walkability“:
“Walkability is a term for planning concepts best understood by the mixed-use of amenities in high-density neighborhoods where people can access said amenities by foot. It is based on the idea that urban spaces should be more than just transport corridors designed for maximum vehicle throughput.”
But why are we seeing some much marketing and “new walkable development” while at the same time feeling further and further from true “walkable” moments in our day?
Here is what I think. I think we have begun to talk about walkability as it relates to entertainment. There. I said it. We all want our walkable spaces to get us to bars, food spots, coffee shops, parks, etc.. We want nice walkways from parking lots in our districts and ways to get from our house to the playground with our kids. These are all crucial but is it the entire story?
Isn’t walkability more than that? Isn’t that the entire point, really? What about walkable communities that actually put boots on the ground during the day – you know, where we spend our most time? Walkable is only as good as the community is strong. It is full circle. Inclusive. It has to do with all things like:
Density in housing, personal connection and connection to our basic daily needs.
Function in the quality of paths, walkways, sidewalks, street crossings and the general environment we experience outside the car.
Retail Mix and how it serves our daily needs like groceries, post office, schools, gyms, food and drink, entertainment, medical, sundries, and more.
Access and Activation to safe facilities in order to move about the community as well as access to jobs, attainable housing and other functions our community needs to survive. Public Transit is also a huge part here and integral to these communities as well as activating alleys and other public places.
If we look closely at Downtown Edmond, we will see progress towards a truly walkable community but we haven’t yet done enough. We can get to 2 or 3 different coffee spots. 2 or 3 different pizza joints. 2 or 3 different taco places and so on.
We are finally seeing housing go up (although attainability is questionable). We have a grocery and a public school option. The post office and a few medical services. We are still lacking, however, in professional career opportunities without the district, with better street design for pedestrian travel to name a few.
I’d love to see the conversation about walkability begin to encompass the full story. I want to see Downtown Edmond turn into a place people move so that they can ditch the car and embrace what the marketing is telling them.
How walkable is your community to daily needs?
Will you try to walk your kids to school?
Can you grab groceries by foot or bike?
How about dropping off that mail at the post office?
Take your kids to soccer or baseball?
Walk to church?
I think to answer the question of walkability, it will take us all ditching our cars for a week and then write our thoughts down and get to work.