What Does Walkable Mean?

October 25, 2016 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

With the proposed Riverside Avondale Overlay changes being parsed in public, (finally) Check out this amazing talk that defines what is actually meant by 'walkability'.





Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability.

The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king, and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at.

The General Theory of Walkability explains how, to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting.

Each of these qualities is essential an none alone is sufficient.

Useful means that most aspects of daily life are located close at hand and organized in a way that walking serves them well.

Safe means that the street has been designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles; they must not only be safe but feel safe, which is even tougher to satisfy.

Comfortable means that buildings and landscape shape urban streets into ‘outdoor living rooms,’ in contrast to wide-open spaces, which usually fail to attract pedestrians. Interesting means that sidewalks are lined by unique buildings with friendly faces and that signs of humanity abound.

Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who, through writing, lectures, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayors' Institute on City Design and created the Governors' Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps state governors fight suburban sprawl. Prior to joining the Endowment, Mr. Speck spent ten years as Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., a leading practitioner of the New Urbanism, where he led or managed more than forty of the firm's projects. He is the co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream as well as The Smart Growth Manual. He serves as a Contributing Editor to Metropolis Magazine, and on the Sustainability Task Force of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His recent book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time –which the Christian Science Monitor called “timely and important, a delightful, insightful, irreverent work” – was the best-selling planning/design title of 2013.

Check out more of his work and books at http://jeffspeck.com