Take a Walk!
Regardless of the season, I’ve always enjoyed running or walking through Shelby Farms Park in Memphis. On cold winter or sweltering summer days, I pretty much always had the park to myself, aside from a few other brave souls and the resident herd of buffalo. Now, with the groundbreaking of the Shelby Farms Greenline, a seven-mile trail that connects Midtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park, the park has blossomed. Increasing concerns about the environment, safety, and healthier lifestyles has prompted many communities to look at how they can improve walkability for their residents. Memphis is making great strides, although even ardent supporters of the Greater Memphis Greenline project will agree that we’ve got a long way to go.
On April 26, 2011, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) at the University of North Carolina announced the inaugural Walk Friendly Communities designations. FedEx support of Walk Friendly Communities is a great example of how corporate philanthropy can be used to empower communities to make a long-lasting social impact and provide access to safer, more walkable communities. FedEx is proud to fund the Walk Friendly Communities program. Katy Jones, Manager at UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center, shares more about Walk Friendly Communities and what communities can do to become “walk-friendly.”
We’re so excited to be working with FedEx and the US DOT Federal Highway Administration to announce the inaugural Walk Friendly Communities. The Walk Friendly Community designation, awarded from bronze to platinum, is given to applicant communities that have demonstrated a commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans and policies. This year, the following communities have been designated as a Walk Friendly Community.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Hoboken, New Jersey
Santa Barbara, California
Charlotte, North Carolina
These communities have accomplished so much to get to this point.
Seattle, Washington – the program’s first and only Platinum-level Walk Friendly Community – has developed an outstanding reputation as a walkable city due, in large part, to the tremendous understanding they have of how pedestrians travel within their city. Building measurable objectives within their city’s Pedestrian Master Plan, Seattle established baseline measurements, performance targets and data collection processes to improve walkability.
Hoboken, New Jersey – a Gold-level Walk Friendly Community – closes a large segment of Sinatra Drive, the waterfront boulevard, to motor-vehicle traffic every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day to promote health and physical activity.
In Charlottesville, Virginia – a Silver Walk Friendly Community – an impressive 100% of signalized intersections have been converted to push-button signals with countdown timers. In addition, they have a comprehensive Complete Streets policy and a highly successful Downtown Pedestrian Mall.
One of the program’s Bronze Communities – Austin, Texas – is being recognized in part for its work with the Walk Texas! Program which promotes walking as a method of managing and preventing chronic diseases, particularly Type II diabetes.
One of the most rewarding things about this program is that it’s not simply an award. Communities receive customized technical assistance as they complete the application and follow-up guidance on how to improve their walkability and pedestrian safety once the application is complete. And communities that submitted applications for the first round of Walk Friendly Communities are telling us that just going the application process has reaped benefits for their community.
As one applicant stated, ““The list of our strengths and weaknesses that will result from this application will show us how we can improve our community for pedestrians. I would say it helps us the most by holding up a national standard by which to measure ourselves and to gain ideas from other communities.”
We’re excited to see how this program will grow as the support for walkability and livability in our nation increases. For more information on Walk Friendly Communities, please visit www.walkfriendly.org.