Editor’s Note. Updated December 19, 2019.
In a 2011 study, the group Transportation for America ranked Raleigh-Cary, N.C. as the 13th most dangerous metro area for pedestrians in the United States.
As recently reported by EfficientGov and CEOs for Cities, “walkable” cities are more successful economically. Housing prices and rents are usually higher in pedestrian-friendly cities. The CEOs for Cities found the average sales price of homes in sidewalk-laden communities to be approximately $34,000 higher than in cities with fewer pedestrian options. And, cities with poor pedestrian infrastructure tend to have residents who are less affluent and have lower educational performance.
Leaders in Raleigh have reacted to the Transportation for America’s negative ranking with a comprehensive pedestrian plan. Hitherto, Raleigh’s approach to sidewalk improvement and construction projects hinged upon a sidewalk’s location and the availability of funds. Pedestrian needs or safety concerns did not factor into the equation.
The Transportation for America ranking has prompted the city to change tactics. Using $10 million in transportation bonds, Raleigh plans to improve the state of the city’s sidewalks based on resident requests and needs. The plan also provides some $3 million for the construction of sidewalks requested by residents. It eliminates a previous requirement that all property owners chip in a portion of the construction cost when sidewalks are requested to be built in a neighborhood.
Raleigh and cities like Marysville, Ohio are allowing citizens to directly petition the city for sidewalk construction. They’re on the right track as improving pedestrian mobility will not only help their economic viability, but improve the health and wellbeing of residents. A study by the University of New Hampshire found that people who live in highly walkable areas are happier. And, a Canadian study concludes that residents of less walkable neighborhoods are more likely to develop diabetes over time.
There are many resources available to cities that seek to improve pedestrian pathways.
EfficientGov has covered form based zoning as a means of improving walkability in Mesa, AZ. Additionally, we’ve written about car usage trends and the impact of young adults attitudes towards automobiles will impact cities and towns.
WalkScore measures city’s walkability by evaluating neighborhoods with an algorithm that includes proximity to supermarkets, restaurants and other amenities.
Smart Growth America provides tools and forums for “walkable-minded” people seeking positive change for communities.