Traditional Neighborhood Development: Walkability

In part 4 of our blog series, we explore what makes a neighborhood walkable. In previous installments, we’ve covered what TND is, why we as a firm encourage it, and how density and scale contribute to “human-scaled” environments.
Walkable areas include an appropriate street grid and providing pedestrian amenities such as landscaping, benches, and appropriate lighting.

Dead-end streets, cul-de-sacs, and large parking lots all make an area feel less walkable to pedestrians. Walkers need streets to go somewhere and to connect to other streets that go somewhere. Grid-like patterns of straight streets are the easiest to navigate as a pedestrian. Long, unnecessary curves and circuitous routes make people want to use their cars.

Think about walking in downtown Brattleboro. People skip through parking lots, over landscaped areas, and across non-crosswalk-marked parts of roads to get where they are going as quickly as possible. And that’s in a fairly compact, grid-like downtown!

Pedestrian amenities also make an area feel more walkable. Benches to sit on, shade trees to sit and stand under, and well-lit pathways all make areas feel friendlier and safer for pedestrians. Such elements are somewhat missing in Brattleboro at the moment—the sidewalks aren’t quite wide enough downtown because of street widening. But walk along the Whetstone pathway (by the Food CoOp), and you will find benches and lighting, and a pleasant view of the Brook (and our resident ducks).

When you make new developments—or extensions to existing ones—feel like historic downtowns, they encourage walking instead of driving. That improves the environmental profile of the development and, some suggest, the health of residents.

For more information on creating walkable communities, visit the America Walks website, where you can download a guide: Steps to a Walkable Community.