The Walk Friendly Communities program, now celebrating its tenth year, recognizes cities throughout the United States for high levels of commitment to pedestrian safety. The program works to encourage walkable cities and towns by raising awareness of those who are promoting walkability and by educating decision-makers through resources and detailed feedback.
The pedestrian experience in many Walk Friendly Communities is enhanced by comprehensive and well-planned wayfinding systems. Wayfinding can increase pedestrian circulation and reinforce sense of place. Signs, maps, and tours indicate a community’s support for walking culture and are a good way for municipalities to encourage and facilitate walking for many different purposes, including recreational, utilitarian, and fitness. Positive experiences navigating a city may lead to longer tourist stays and inspire deeper exploration of what a community has to offer.
Walk Friendly Communities frequently utilize Open Streets, or Ciclovias, to promote walkability and active transportation. These walking-focused events temporarily re-route motor vehicle traffic to repurpose street space for walking, biking, and other activities. With several successful Open Streets under their belts, cities around the country have expanded their programs to activate public space throughout the year in different neighborhoods around town. Fort Collins, CO, Bend, OR and Atlanta, GA are three Walk Friendly Communities with booming Open Streets programs.
Arlington County, VA, was recently profiled in the book America’s Walking Renaissance, which highlights nine communities around the country and the ways they are embracing walking, and we at Walk Friendly Communities were not the least bit surprised at their inclusion.
Arlington’s walking e-newsletter sums up their attitude towards pedestrians when it describes walking as “a gateway to increased physical activity and a stimulus to safer, more livable and equitably prosperous communities.” The monthly pedestrian newsletter is one of a wealth of resources available to the walking public in Arlington. WalkArlington, part of the Active Transportation program of Arlington County’s government, works to both encourage walking through a number of outreach programs and to promote safety through innovative safety campaigns.