What is walk appeal?

And do we have it?

In a recent article “Can We Quantify a Good Walk,” author Kaid Benfield discusses what makes a good walkable community. There’s the popsicle test, the Halloween test,  the 20-minute neighborhood, the tourist test and the pub shed.

But a newer idea, walk appeal, may make the difference on whether you walk 2 miles, a half mile or only 100 feet.

“One will walk two miles or farther in a world-class city such as London or Paris, but ‘put a Parisian accustomed to walking five miles or more per day on a suburban American cul-de-sac, and they wouldn’t walk much.’ He further posits that people will walk about three-quarters of a mile on a good American Main Street, where buildings tend to have entrances right along the sidewalk and narrow storefronts to provide variety in the walker’s view. For residential areas, Steve says that, if a neighborhood is or mimics a traditional (pre-1950) one, we typically will walk about a quarter of a mile. But in sprawling suburbs, the distance drops to about 250 feet, and in a power center of big-box stores the distance drops to 100 feet.”

Downtown Cortland is very walkable, although better sidewalks would certainly help. Even though there are sidewalks (sort of) along Rt. 281 and Route 13, would I want to walk there? Not me, and I don’t think many do. It’s not conducive to walking.

Would I walk several miles in New York City or Key West? Sure. Very different communities but very walkable.

So I think walk appeal is a huge factor in whether people will walk. Building sidewalks doesn’t necessarily mean that people will use them.

Let’s keep that in mind when we redesign our streets and communities.




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