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.
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?