Tag Archive for 'walkability'

People happier in walkable neighborhoods

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to residents of the 6th most walkable city in the country, but a recent study has shown that walkable neighborhoods have happier people:

People who live in walkable communities are more socially engaged and trusting than those who live in less walkable areas, says a new study from the University of New Hampshire.

The study buttresses other research that has linked a neighborhood’s walkability to its residents’ quality of life, notably improved physical and mental health.

The researchers scored 700 residents of three communities in New Hampshire on measures of “social capital” such as socializing with friends, civic engagement and trust in their community. They found those in neighborhoods with higher Walk Score ratings reported being happier and healthier and more apt to volunteer, work on community projects or simply entertain friends at home.


Walking with Crutches on Capitol Hill

I’ve been fortunate never to have needed to use crutches, but it sounds like if I were living on Capitol Hill, it wouldn’t be too big of a problem, according to a local resident who broke his ankle.

I’ve also found another reason to love my dense compact neighborhood of Capitol Hill in Seattle. It turns out that my part of the world, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the Northwest, is pretty easy to get around on crutches. While my neighborhood is considered a “walker’s paradise” by Walk Score’s measure, it is also conducive to getting around in other ways, including on crutches. Why? It’s pretty simple; everything in my neighborhood is close by.

Just another perk of living in a walkable area, though hopefully one I can just be aware of without having to experience it.


Making Bitter Lake walkable

While there are many neighborhoods that make it easy to get around by foot, the neighborhood of Bitter Lake is not one of them.

A resident examined the limitations of the area and came up with some suggestions of how to make Bitter Lake more walkable.

As you can see it’s a fairly discrete area, bounded on four sides by busy arterials. Inside those arterials, there’s no reason you couldn’t have a thriving community. It already has a decent walkability score. There are a couple of parks; Greenwood boasts several restaurants and cafes; Aurora has an array of big box retailers; there’s a great supermarket just a few blocks north of 145th. There are more people coming in, too, as a series of condos are built along Linden.

But despite all the ingredients … there is no such community. The first and primal cause is that there are no %*#! sidewalks. (You hear me Mayor McGinn? Show me what the new guy can do!) But I think the problems run deeper. Look closely at the map and you’ll note that the development pattern is almost aggressively misanthropic. Everyone is isolated from everyone else!

Consider how the character of the neighborhood might be different if it were more of a grid

There’s some more good stuff there, including some history of the area, and a suggestion for us all.

Here’s the takeaway, for the few hearty souls still reading this logorrheic post: one of the biggest challenges in years ahead, as we attempt to densify and green our communities, will be retrofitting existing neighborhoods to increase walkability, sociability, sustainability, and safety. It’s worth a minute of anyone’s time to ponder how they could make their own surroundings more amenable to spontaneous, non-commercial, human-scale social interaction.


Just returned to Seattle

I was out of town for the past week visiting family and just got back, so I wasn’t able to walk somewhere in Seattle and share another walking route here.

Now that I’m back, I’m even more thankful for the walkable neighborhoods and pleasant nature trails that Seattle has to offer. While there are myriad ways in which Seattle could become more walker-friendly, it’s still a more pleasant place to walk than many parts of the country.


Transforming downtown to make Seattle America’s Most Walkable City

The city of Seattle just finished the most comprehensive study ever done in a US city on improving public spaces. The architecture firm that performed the study presented their preliminary findings this past Tuesday.

You can download a PDF version of the presentation from the International Sustainability Institute.

The presentation starts with some key findings about where pedestrians go downtown, noting that the waterfront is undervisited partially due to poor connections between the waterfront and downtown. It also maps the dull area in the central part of downtown between the retail core and Pioneer Square.

The presentation then moves on to some recommendations:

  • upgrading the waterfront toward making Seattle a waterfront city
  • using the east-west streets as “green connectors”
  • turning alleys into “green lungs”
  • greening building roofs and walls

There are a few motivating graphics that show how adding greenery and other pedestrian amenities could transform downtown, specifically King Street Station and 1st Avenue.

It also shares some lessons from New York City’s conversion of Times Square to reduce vehicle traffic.

The easy suggestions it makes are to:

  1. Better connect Pike Place Market & Westlake
  2. Complete the bicycle network
  3. Prioritize 1st Ave to make it a great street
  4. Green the alleys
  5. Create active facades to replace plain walls

Seattle has a lot of potential to make the downtown area great and this study seems to have identified a lot of good ways to do that. The full results will be out in March.

You can watch the presentation here. The Seattle PI’s In Pioneer Square blog has a good overview as well.