Walkable communities – The Blue Print for New Communities

Over the past couple of years we’ve started to see interest picking up in the concept of walkable communities. The concept of “walkable” has a lot of great benefits that meet the goals of a neighborhood, a city and on a personal level. We will discuss some of those benefits in this writing and provide some information on what goes into a highly effective walkable area.
First off, let’s talk about the concept of a walkable community. At its core, the walkable community is one that is designed to allow people to walk or bike to their various needs without having to pull the car out of the driveway. In addition, the method to getting to the areas should be safe and efficient for the pedestrian. As with anything in life, there are levels to determine how walkable a community is. For example, a community that is within a short walk to a public transportation is still showing some walkable quality even if it is not as highly rated as a community in which you could walk straight to the various destinations. A great tool to rate the walkable rating of a neighborhood is www.walkscore.com. We’ll circle back around to that Walk Score in a minute, but let’s quickly talk about some of the benefits.
Communities with excellent Walkability are great because they offer several important benefits over less walkable areas. For starters, they are supportive of a “Green” movement towards helping our planet. Less driving equates to less emissions from our vehicles. It’s been estimated that cars and trucks account for one-fifth of all US emissions (per UCSUSA.org). Green communities do their part in reducing that factor. Walkability obviously saves the residents in the community time and money. There have been some case studies on residents in walkable areas that have eliminated the need of a car altogether by virtue of easy walking distances to personal needs and nearby public transportation. There are also health benefits. Those that feel like they have safe options to exercise and to get to nearby areas are more likely to use a bike, jog, or walk rather than getting in a car. That psychological advantage can be the difference between getting an exercise each day or not.
Since walkable areas are “Green”, save money, and provide an environment for healthy living, they are an obvious destination that many will naturally seek out. To go out and start researching walkable areas, a great first step is to look at www.walkscore.com. Walkscore.com rates several details to determine the true level of walkability of the community. Among the rating factors are: walk score, transit score, and bike score. Each category will have several criteria to determine how well each area performs. In the walk score section, it looks into the ability to walk to places such as Dining and drinking, groceries, shopping, parks and entertainment. The transit score reviews if there is public transportation and if it is considered “world class” quality, not existent, or any area between. The bike score looks at design features for using a bike to access things (similar to the walk score) while also reviewing if there is bike infrastructure built in (such as bike only lanes). After these factors are analyzed a final score will be given for the community of 1 to 100 with 100 being the best. As of this writing in January 2017, the highest rated city in the United States is New York City with a score of 88.9.
Locally, the City of Myrtle Beach has made some steps towards improving walkability in the City. They are currently reviewing some preliminary studies showing potential changes to roads, side walk additions and other forms of making the area safe more usable for pedestrians. A specific community within Myrtle Beach, The Market Common, has many communities located within its radius. The Market Common has restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, a movie theater and places to work within a walk or bike ride of these neighboring communities. With sidewalks throughout the area to these destinations via biking and walking, it meets some of the valuable criteria that are considered for a walkable community.
These developments are exciting and are the wave of the future. For more information on walkable communities, you may consider checking out www.walkable.org. For information on walkable communities near Myrtle Beach, feel free to contact us.

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