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Infrastructure Projects That Walk the Walk

This blog is posted in honor of Infrastructure Week 2018. America Walks is a proud affiliate of Infrastructure Week. 

We’re making great strides all across the country in championing and creatively implementing walkability but there is still work to be done  to fill gaps and address disparities in the walking conditions of communities across the US. This is no clearer than in the the alarming rise in pedestrian fatality rates and speaks to the urgency to empower communities to create safe, accessible, and enjoyable walking conditions for all. America Walks has long recognized the importance of infrastructure in providing opportunities to support people-first design that emphasizes safety and accessibility. In honor of Infrastructure Week, we are exploring how the built environment impacts the health, connectivity, and accessibility of a community.

We’re highlighting five projects that walk the walk in supporting people-first infrastructure by using programs and tools to mobilize community members, address barriers, and practice placemaking. Each in their own way address the legacies of our auto-centric cities including the wide streets, high speed limits, and lack of crosswalks that prioritize traffic over people.

1. Ottumwa’s Better Block Project Better Block partnered with Main Street Ottumwa, Main Street Iowa, The Iowa Economic Development Authority, and many others under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host a Train the Trainer workshop and Better Block project in downtown Ottumwa, Iowa. A dedicated planning and development team plus 150 volunteers set out to show community members that the vision of a vibrant, colorful, friendly main street, where families can socialize, exercise, eat, shop, drink, live, and celebrate – isn’t unreachable. Discover how to build a better block in your community, or get inspired with similar guidance from Tactical Urbanist’s Guide and Project for Public Spaces’ Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper resource page.

2. ReConnect Rondo – This project is a vision for walkability, inclusion and revival to reconnect St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, a tight-knit African American community that was displaced by construction of the Interstate-94 freeway development in the 1960’s. The program’s mission is to build a beautiful land bridge – which would pave the way for walkable parks, housing and businesses. ReConnect Rondo proudly promotes its vision as being “for the community, by the community, with the input of community voice”. Learn more about the Rondo Land Bridge and see why the project was chosen as a recipient of our Community Change Grant.

3. Kansas City’s Traffic Calming Lending LibraryA beautiful, flexible, educational and collaborative approach to making the built environment safer for folks on foot. Bike Walk KC advocates and provides materials for calming demonstrations, pop-ups, better block, and tactical urbanism events. The Traffic Calming Lending Library is accessible to anyone in the Greater Kansas City area and Western Missouri. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center is a great national resource that also provides traffic-calming guidance and support. Learn more about how traffic-calming measures can benefit your community and see other examples, here.

4. Portland’s Green LoopThe vision for this loop connects people to places within and beyond Portland’s downtown neighborhoods and the Willamette River via an epic linear park. The 6-mile loop will provide residents, workers and visitors an exploratory place to walk, bike, run and play around the Central City. It’s a symbol of a movement to help people immerse themselves in the urban core in a new and exhilarating way, along trails and pathways that offer unique experiences and encounters with nature, art, and each other. So far, the project is proving to be an example of connectivity and accessibility at its finest. For more on how nature can play an important role in creating places for people, check out our friends at National Recreation and Park Association and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

5. Access NavigatorsWhat started as a grant-funded guide for helping people with mobility challenges plan for a visit to Portsmouth, NH, has turned into a mission to advocate for people with disabilities and to help everyone with mobility challenges stay engaged in their community, by knowing what to expect when they visit local restaurants and cultural attractions. Access Navigators and other accessibility advocates, like pathVu, are part of a growing mobile industry to assess hazards and features via mapping apps to hack into the accessibility and safety of sidewalks. The goal is to raise awareness, empower people, encourage inclusiveness, and influence others to do the same. Learn more about Access Navigators’ commitment to creating safe spaces for all community members.

At the core of these projects, walkability is a critical component for infrastructure that works for all road users, whether they be by foot, on a bike, or in a car. If we want to realize the proven benefits of walkability, we must provide infrastructure that builds upon people-first design, is attentive to all forms of mobility, and focuses on inclusive connectivity.

It’s time to elevate the development of walkable infrastructure, and its related projects and tools, as a vital piece impacting America’s economy, society, and security. The future won’t wait. Neither can we. It’s #TimeToBuild safe and accessible places to walk today.