Ten Keys To Walkable/Livable Communities
By Dan Burden, Director, Walkable Communities, Inc.
The following ten items are key indicators (measures) or steps taken to achieve
prosperous, walkable, healthy, livable communities. No towns or village centers
in America today exhibit all of these measures in whole, comprehensive or complete
ways. Rather, the good towns are organic (springing from the fertile soil of
local creativity and sensibility), and they are progressing toward true walkability
and livability. These towns have crystal clear visions for the future, and
they are in the process of achieving each of these measures. Many towns with
one or two of these keys are moving forward to achieve success with most or
all other measures.
Walkable communities or neighborhoods are destinations. These places are built
with vision, patience, love, common sense, teamwork, and openness. Walkable
communities have shared commitment by diverse groups of citizens and stakeholders;
they are graced with widely held and firmly developed sense of ownership. When
strangers encounter local residents in walkable communities or neighborhoods,
any local resident can say why the town is good. Citizens of good towns have
well-developed sense of custodianship by a wide range of people.
These walkable communities may not be seen as good places for cars, but they
are very livable and worth finding. These towns are talked about, celebrated
and loved for their uniqueness and ability to champion the natural environment
and human spirit.
- Compact, Lively Town Center (or many compact villages
in larger towns or cities). Buildings frame streets; block lengths
are short. Merchants take pride in their shops appearances. Great
varieties of stores offer local products and services. Significant housing
is found at downtown or village center sites. There is unique and distinct
personality or character to the place.
- Many Linkages to Neighborhoods (including walkways,
trails and roadways). People have choices of many routes from their
homes to the center. The most direct paths are walking routes. All sidewalks
are five feet wide, or wider, and most are buffered from streets by planting
strips, bike lanes or on-street parking. Well-maintained sidewalks are
found on both sides of most arterial and collector roadways. Sidewalks
are cleared during winter months if necessary. Most neighborhood streets
have sidewalks on both sides. Bike lanes are found on most principal streets.
Streets with higher volume or speeds, almost always have bike lanes. Most
streets have good ADA access to and from each block in all directions.
- Low Speed Streets (in downtown and neighborhoods
- 20-25 mph common). Most motorists behave well in the downtown or
village center, and near schools, waterfronts, historic neighborhoods,
parks and other public areas, yielding to pedestrians. Motorists make their
turns at low speed. Few places force motorists to stop. Yield conditions
are most common.
- Neighborhood Schools and Parks. Most children
are able to walk or bicycle to school and small nearby parks. There is limited
or no busing of school children, and at least 40% of all school trips are
by foot or bicycle. Most residents live within _ mile (preferably _ mile)
of small parks or other well-maintained and attractive public spaces.
- Public Places Packed with Children, Teenagers, Older
Adults and People with Disabilities. Many services and facility designs
support and attract many children, teens, people with disabilities and
senior citizens to most public spaces. Public restrooms, drinking fountains
and sitting places are common in many parts of town, especially downtown.
- Convenient, Safe and Easy Street Crossings. Downtowns
and village centers have frequent, convenient, well-designed street crossings.
Pedestrians using these areas rarely have to walk more than 150 feet from
their direct lines-of-travel to reach crossings. People crossing at intersections,
whether signalized or not, rarely wait more than 30 seconds to start their
- Inspiring and Well-Maintained Public Streets. Streets
are attractive, balanced, colorful, with sidewalks, planter strips, medians,
(when appropriate) and handle a diversity of needs. Many streets feature
on street parking and larger volume streets have bike lanes. Homes and buildings
are brought forward, relating to the street. There is little or no off street
parking. Sidewalks are centered and surrounded with attractive edges, a planter
strip to the street side, and an edge or attractive transition to the private
- Land Use and Transportation Mutually Beneficial. People
understand and support compact development, urban infill, integral placement
of mixed-use buildings, and mixed income neighborhoods. The built environment
is of human scale, with attributes that invite positive interaction and compliment
the surrounding neighborhoods. Heritage buildings and places are respected.
People understand that small, local stores help create community as well
as convenience. Residents desire and find ways to include affordable homes
in most neighborhoods. Transit connects centers of attraction with schedules
so frequent that times need not be posted. All residents feel they have choice
of travel modes to most destinations. Most people live within walking distance
- 1/2 mile (with the majority within 1/4 mile) - of 40% of the services and
products they need on daily or weekly basis. These services include small
grocery, pharmacy, hardware, bank, "doc-in-a-box" medical services,
day care, dry cleaning, post office and other essential services.
- Celebrated Public Space and Public Life. Streets,
plazas, parks and waterfronts are fun, festive, secure, convenient, efficient,
comfortable and welcoming places. Suitable places exist to host parades or
give public speeches; and many people take part in community parades, festivals,
outdoor concerts and other public events. Public space is tidy, well kept,
respected and loved. Many of these favorite places are surrounded by residential
properties, with many eyes-on-the-streets to add security and ownership of
these spaces. These areas have many places to sit. Few or no buildings have
large blank walls, and few or no open parking lots exist off-street. Any
existing parking lots have great edges and greens. Natural beauty and quality
of community environment are not only appreciated, but celebrated, with annual
awards given to best developers, neighborhood parks, buildings, retailers,
and private placement of new park benches. Barbershop quartets, brass bands,
string quartets, small dance troupes, local theater groups and other venues
for community participation are alive and well. People can find public places
for practice, fun and spontaneous play. The community has many "green" streets,
with trees and landscaping. The town form respects the need for plenty of
green and open space. Heritage trees line many streets. Development practices
call for street trees and planter strips; homes are clustered to maximize
green space. Trails and passageways through natural areas are featured in
many parts of town. Landscaping is respectful of place, often featuring native
species, drought resistant plants, colorful materials, stone treatments or
other local treats. In desert and high country areas, many methods are used
to minimize use of water and other precious resources.
- Many People Walking. Many diverse people are
walking in most areas of town. The community has no rules against loitering.
Lingering in downtowns, village centers, schools, city hall, civic centers,
waterfronts and other public places is encouraged and celebrated. Street
musicians and entertainers are welcomed. Children rarely need to ask parents
for transportation, especially to school, parks and downtown.
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