11 Walk Friendly Communities

A Walk Friendly Community is rated for their commitment to a walkable environment. This includes pedestrian safety, mobility, access and comfort Communities apply for the recognition and learn best practices. The awards were first given in April, 2011 by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. The Walk Friendly Communities program is funded by FedEx and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Applications are taken twice yearly.

Seattle, Washington - Platinum Level Award

Seattle. © Wendy Bumgardner

Seattle tops the awards with its planning, engineering, outreach and education. They measure their walk-friendly success with pedestrian counts and performance indicators. Seattle makes their streets walk friendly by managing parking and requiring street trees. They encourage walking through a Safe Routes to School program for families and the Sound Steps program for adults over 50. They also have Celebrate Seattle Summer Streets days to make walking and biking into a festival.

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Ann Arbor, Michigan - Gold Level Award

Ann Arbor receives praise for its attention to an attractive and comfortable walking environment. Knowing that a pleasant place to walk takes more than concrete, they provide sidewalk furniture, planters, fountains, and informational signage and directional signs for pedestrians. In addition, they set aside 1% of the city funds for public art. They have an Ann Arbor Safe Streets and Sidewalks Taskforce. As a result, more people walk to work in Ann Arbor than in most US cities. Ann Arbor is also committed to crossing safety with a focus on making crosswalks visible and safe. They have a good Crossing Guard Program through the schools.

Arlington, Virginia - Gold Level Award

Transit-oriented planning, especially of parking, is key to keeping Arlington walkable. They also do intensive education and outreach for both their city staff and citizens. They promote a Car Free Diet with tips to get around without a car. The WalkAlington web site features great walkabouts to show people how to enjoy Arlington County on foot.

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Hoboken, New Jersey - Gold Level Award

Hoboken is served by three regional transit system, which boots its transit use to 57% They have a car-sharing program, Corner Cars, to reduce demand for private vehicles. Every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, waterfront Sinatra Drive is closed to vehicle traffic so pedestrians can enjoy it in the Hoboken Summer Streets Program. To improve crosswalk safety in these budget-conscious times, they have a low-cost daylighting program that takes 10 minutes to install to keep cars from parking within 20 feet of the intersection.

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Santa Barbara, California - Gold Level Award

Come enjoy the paseos -- pedestrian-oriented shopping streets. Pedestrians can stroll from shop to shop on what used to be parking lanes behind businesses. In the car-loving culture of southern California, SantaBarbaraCarFree encourages car-free travel with information on great walking destinations and public transportation.

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Charlottesville, Virginia - Silver Level Award

Charlottesville features a Downtown Pedestrian Mall on its historic Main Street. In 2010, they adopted a model Complete Streets polity to ensure that street projects accommodate and encourage pedestrians, bicycles and public transportation in addition to cars. Their zoning policy requires ground floor commerical uses in mixed use districts. Such policies encourage small destination business use such as coffee shops, creating a walker-welcoming environment. All of Charlottesville's crossing lights have push-button signals with countdown timers.

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Decatur, Georgia - Silver Level Award

Besides working on parking management, Decatur is actively promoting walking, especially for fitness. They teamed with Kaiser Permanente to win a "Most Fit City" award in their corporate program. For 2011, they will hold a Walk for Lunch event. On Terrific Thursdays, they encourage stores to stay open longer and provide free Pedicabs and discounts to encourage walking.

Austin, Texas - Bronze Level Award

Austin is participating in the Walk Texas! program to promote walking to prevent and manage chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes. The program includes a mileage tracker to do a virtual walk across Texas. They conducted baseline pedestrian counts in 2010 to begin tracking the success of their efforts. These include two automatic pedestrian counters so they have a continuous stream of data. Austin has an active Safe Routes to School program and a Walk, Bike, & Roll program.

Charlotte, North Carolina - Bronze Level Award

Charlotte is showing its commitment to pedestrians by hiring two pedestrian planners. They adopted Urban Street Design Guidelines in 2006 create a walk friendly environment. They have been installing pedestrian refuge islands on many streets to make crossing safer, and curb extensions where there is on-street parking so pedestrians begin their crossing without being blocked by nearby parked cars.

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Flagstaff, Arizona - Bronze Level Award

Flagstaff has a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and a Pedestrian Advisory Committee. They have 50 miles of trails, with 80 more planned in their Flagstaff Urban Trail System. To raise awareness, each year they have a weeklong Flagstaff Walks! event centered around International Walk to School Day.

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Wilsonville, Oregon - Bronze Level Award

Wilsonville is a rapidly growing surburb of Portland, Oregon, with I-5 going straight through the middle of it. But they have a commitment to sidewalks, with sidewalks on both sides of 85% of the arterials and 80% of the side streets. They have a full-time Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and task force. I have walked in Wilsonville often. They have challenges, but also a beautiful city park along the Willamette River and paths that take pedestrians safely under I-5 at the river to connect the two sides of town. Paths through new developments provide access to parks, including one we dubbed the "secret canyon."

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