U.S. Department of Transportation Supports Walk-Friendly Communities

The pedestrian-friendly community of Holland, Michigan. Photo by Michigan Municipal League.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood recently announced the Walk Friendly Communities (WFC) program, an initiative that “will recognize communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access and comfort.” The initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration along with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and FedEx. (FedEx is a key funder of EMBARQ, the producer of this blog.)

The WFC program provides a tool for communities to assess their walkability. The new website contains information and resources on how communities can improve walking conditions and is an opportunity for cities and towns to focus on specific areas of need. The completion of the form’s questions requires collaboration between different agencies, which is always a good thing. The assessment is then scored.

The new site also lists helpful resources like case studies for improving walkability. Topics include:

  • Planning: pedestrians, complete streets, public involvement, sidewalk construction, connectivity, trails, transit, parking, mixed-used development and urban design features;
  • Education: Safe Routes to School, professional training, campaigns, maps and guides and events and activities;
  • Engineering: sidewalk design, network length, sidewalk and curb length inventory, funding, reporting of hazards, signal design, crosswalks, geometry, innovative treatments, traffic calming;
  • Enforcement; and,
  • Evaluation.

Applications are due on December 15, 2010.

For those communities that have already achieved a high level of walkability, the tool offers an opportunity for those neighborhoods to achieve national recognition for their efforts. For communities still working on improving livability, the assessment will show target areas to improve.

LaHood’s push for livable communities dovetails with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign that focuses on better nutrition and increased physical activity for kids. WFC fills a key component that the Let’s Move campaign does not address, as we wrote about in a previous post , by targeting active community design strategies like complete streets, biking infrastructure, traffic calming measures and transit oriented development.

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