A Walkable Green New Deal

A climate debate is heating up in Washington with the introduction of the Green New Deal. There are a wide range of opinions regarding the urgency and nature of interventions needed, but building walkable places is a ‘no regrets’ piece of the puzzle. With strong demand for more walkable places and a history of investing in approaches to transportation that more often have made it harder to walk rather than easier, it would be a no brainer to reprioritize to put people first in community design to improve quality of life, save government and individuals money and contribute to reducing climate emissions. The Green New Deal seeks a reckoning on America’s climate choices, but we should not lose in the larger controversy that there are opportunities to advance affordable solutions—like walkability– that everyone should support.

America Walks knows that the country needs to implement changes now if it has hopes of tackling the challenges that climate change presents for the future. The plan presented demonstrates leadership and a commitment that is refreshing and much needed. However, as an organization focusing on walking and walkability, we wish to offer comments on ways that it can go further in achieving its goals.

Support for walkability and active transportation is instrumental in addressing many of the challenges named in the Green New Deal. Our car-dependent culture has led to a legacy of environmental concerns and a looming climate crisis. Replacing car trips with active transportation, including walking, and transit will help to reduce the 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions accounted for by transportation. To do this, infrastructure and financial support needs to be improved to create safe, accessible, and connected networks of walking, biking, and transit, to make them viable options for travel for all community members.

Designing communities to be places where all can walk, bike, and use transit provides benefits well beyond environmental. Connected communities provide access to school, work, play, and advances the elimination of existing disparities by making these places available for everyone. . Walkable communities are places where residents can thrive. Support for walkable communities, in the forms of everything from safety to accessibility, will be critical in designing the type of cities, towns, and suburbs needed to help reduce our carbon footprint and begin addressing climate change.

The Green New Deal is a step toward rethinking how we look at transportation and accessibility. It is time that walking and other forms of active transportation are named and taken seriously as part of infrastructure planning and design. As we look to the future, we hope that we put people first and prepare for a brighter future today.