Is your neighbourhood walkable?

When many people think about walking in their neighbourhood, they think about sidewalks, safety from cars and busy intersections that might be difficult to cross. (By the way – if you know a dangerous intersection in town, don’t forget to fill in the City of Fredericton’s Capital City Pedestrian Crossing Study Survey.) Kids walking to school and to the park come to mind – but what about daily essentials like shopping, running errands, or going to work?

Walk Score is a neat programme that scores your neighbourhood based on how accessible basic amenities like banks, stores and school are on foot. It doesn’t take into account things like street layouts, traffic, topography or – especially important this season – the weather, but it does give a glimpse into another aspect of walkability: how your neighbourhood is designed to fit your needs, on foot.



For example, Sunset Drive in the west edge of the city’s north side rates a walk score of 13/100, or “car dependent”. To get a cup of coffee, borrow a book from a library or go to a bank would likely require a car. As for getting to work, census data confirms that 88% of residents living in this area commute to work by car, whilst only 3% take public transit and 5% walk or bike.



At another extreme, Queen Street in Downtown Fredericton rates a walk score of 90/100, or a “walker’s paradise”. Many of the essentials of daily life are easily reached on foot – and as for working, the census data shows that the majority of residents Downtown commute by walking, cycling or public transit – 54% – whilst 41% use a car.

Of course, not everyone can or would necessarily like to live on Sunset Drive or Queen Street, but based on Walk Score’s research, making Fredericton’s neighbourhoods more walkable is one way we can improve our environment and our health, and potentially improve property values and participation in the community.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
  • Source: http://www.walkscore.com/walkable-neighborhoods.shtml

As Frederictonians, we’re lucky to have a setting in a river valley that give us plenty of opportunities to develop pleasant, enjoyable settings and streetscapes in which to walk. Things like zoning our subdivisions to allow a mix of amenities and services within walking distance of where you live, and designing a street and sidewalk network that gives us a choice of safe, enjoyable routes to stroll along, could help improve our city’s walkability.

What do you think? What’s your Walk Score? What can the City do in your neighbourhood to improve walkability?

Advertisements

About Better Fredericton

Better discussion. Better ideas. Better city.

10 comments

  1. from the Hip

    Even if I wanted to walk my street doesnt have sidewalks. Its just a matter of time before someones son or daughter gets killed walking to school. If there was a sidewalk or path it would be safer

    • from the Hip,

      Sorry to hear about your predicament. What street do you live on? Have you seen or know any close calls because of the lack of sidewalks? Are there alternatives for pedestrians to use? Other than sidewalks, what else could be done to help – speed limit, speed bumps, intersection islands?

      • PlannerHammish

        Adding or removing a sidewalk is probably one of the most controversial things the city’s engineering department can undertake – that and declaring parkland ‘surplus’. Contact your ward councilor to let them know how you feel!

      • PlannerHammish,

        Thanks for your comments. Based on your name, are you a planner? Can you provide some insight on how the City decides whether adding/removing sidewalks/parkland is appropriate?

  2. Some parts are walkable. The real pain is when certain streets don’t get plowed and you’re walking either on mounds of snow or the street, dodging cars. A little nerve wrecking….

    • fredeats,

      Very timely given the upcoming winter storm tomorrow night – and with much of the city being on a hill it can be especially dodgy. Are there streets in particular that come to mind where ploughing priority doesn’t jibe with pedestrian need? Is it something that should be delegated to property owners, as is the case in many other cities?

    • PlannerHammish

      Ya, no kidding – I find it to be very dangerous to walk home, and I live in the downtown! The sidewalks were extremely slippery, and they were not plowed down to the surface of the concrete. I must have slipped and landed on my back 4 times last winter.

      • PlannerHammish,

        Sorry to hear about your slips and falls, hope nothing got too hurt. Is it simply plowing more often or more deeply that’s the answer? Some other cities have by-laws where property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their property – could that be helpful?

  3. PlannerHammish

    I think walkability can be improved by reducing the minimum right of way widths on most streets; there is absolutely no need to have a 15m-18m (45′-60′) right of way on a suburban cul-de-sac, or even a local street. Especially when that is combined with a minimum 6m (20′) front yard setback. Not only will that increase density without affecting the lot sizes (making everything that little bit closer, and transit that little bit more viable), it will also help with affordability (less land for the developer to give to the city for free), and help to lower taxes (less road surface to plow, pave, maintain; less runoff to process at a treatment plant, smaller detention ponds etc.).

    From an aesthetic point of view, the facade to facade distance between two buildings on the opposite side of a street should be no less than 0.5 to 1; that is, if a street including the required setbacks is 30m (80′), then the minimum height of the buildings on either side should be 15m (40′). The ideal ratio is about 1:1.

    • PlannerHammish,

      Thanks for your detailed comments. The benefits of narrowing the street requirements begs the question – why are street widths the way they are? Perhaps the minimums are based on doomsday scenarios of fire trucks needing to get through quickly. (I think the speed bumps along Brown/Crocket – a residential street that happens to also be one of the only routes between Marysville towards Downtown, and as busy as Rtes 102/105 – were taken out because of the relocation of the fire station. Fire trucks now need to use the route to get out quickly.) This blog http://grist.org/cities/2010-11-22-confessions-of-a-recovering-engineer/ discusses how street design inappropriately focuses on car movement – could that be it?

      Would formalising other considerations change attitudes and construction? For example, streetscape standards like http://www.toronto.ca/planning/urbdesign/streetscapemanual.htm could add factors like aesthetics, walkability and limiting paving costs to the design process. Do you think Fredericton could benefit with similar requirements?

Leave a Reply to from the Hip Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: