Making Communities “Walk Friendly”
Whether you are walking to work, school, the park, or shops; walking to take out the dog, or to socialize with neighbors, being able to safely walk around a community is vital for physical and mental health. With that goal in mind, the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center developed the Walk Friendly Communities (WFC) program in 2010 to highlight communities making safe walking a priority.
Walk Friendly Communities is a national recognition program supported by FedEx and the Federal Highway Administration that encourages cities and towns across the United States to prioritize support for safe walking environments. The program’s mission is twofold: to recognize existing walkable communities and to provide a framework for communities seeking to improve their walkability. Walk Friendly Communities highlights the successes of communities that have made great strides in improving walking to provide inspiration to other cities and towns. Since the program began, we have provided feedback to 117 communities in 33 states, recognizing 50 of them as Walk Friendly Communities.
Walk Friendly Communities are all over the U.S., but all have one quality in common: an enthusiastic commitment to safer walking environments. They stand behind key walkability initiatives such as creating dedicated pedestrian plans, hiring support staff, planning for mixed-use development, improving street design and aesthetics, creating more sociable streets and events, and building comprehensive sidewalk networks.
While the potential for nationwide recognition is a compelling part of our program, all communities—no matter how walkable they are—can benefit from participating in the program by filling out the online assessment. This process creates a dialog among community stakeholders about what the community is doing right and how it can further improve the walking environment. In addition, each community that submits this assessment receives personalized feedback to assist in improving its walkability through strategic planning. The feedback is filled with resources, research, and examples from current Walk Friendly Communities and is provided at no cost to applicants thanks to the generous support from FedEx.
It is not the end of the road for those cities and towns that receive the WFC designation. Communities often use this recognition to further promote walking initiatives and demonstrate their commitment to walking in funding applications, media campaigns, project development, and program promotion.
As the program moves into its fifth year, we are excited to share more successes of the cities and towns that are growing with this program and to inspire every community to become more walkable. To learn more about the program and see our current list of Walk Friendly Communities, along with examples of initiatives that are working in communities across the U.S, please visit www.walkfriendly.org.