The Surgeon General’s Step It Up campaign kicked off last week with a call for more walkable communities, and that once would have been the proper thing to seek, but no longer. For decades, most places in America were so unwalkable that urbanists had to fight to build walkable places, but it turns out that “walkable” is a really low standard. Do you want food that is merely edible? Will you pay for a book that is only readable? How about a cup of coffee that is just drinkable? What we need isn’t places that are solely walkable, but rather places with Walk Appeal.
The core idea of Walk Appeal is that people walk longest and most often in places that entice them, but rarely walk just because they’re told they ought to. Some Walk Appeal factors are measurable, while others are immeasurable, and it has long been clear that Walk Appeal is the best predictor of the viability of neighborhood businesses, whether they be single establishments or incubators like maker spaces. And creating walkspaces around buildings with high Walk Appeal has more sustainability benefits than almost anything else you can do because it helps people live in season. But arguably the greatest benefit of boosting Walk Appeal is the effect it has on public health.
The Surgeon General has reams of studies on the benefits of walking, as did the Surgeons General of several preceding administrations. Susan Henderson put up a nice piece this morning that gathers several of those resources into one post. And I have huge personal experience of the benefits of Walk Appeal, having lost 60 pounds by moving to South Beach.
Wanda and I are working on the Walk Appeal book now. Other than the things outlined above, what all should we be thinking about? Do you know good resources we might not be aware of? Commenters on this blog made the Original Green book far better… as a matter of fact, most of the good ideas in the book started with comments on the blog. So please help us out again... the idea of Walk Appeal deserves a book as good as we all can make it!
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Nathan Lewis doesn't specifically mention walk appeal as far as I know, but his writings on the subject of traditional cities or cities for people are invaluable to the discussion, in my opinion anyway. http://www.newworldeconomics.com/arc.../tradcityarchive.html
Thanks, Jeffrey! I was unaware of this work. Gotta dig into it...
Sep 20, 2015 3:33pm
Dean Bowden · Huntsville, Alabama
Random thoughts from places I love to walk: building heights scaled to visible depth (shorter buildings for narrow walking paths and taller buildings for open plazas); planned spaces for the nominal weather (western buildings provide afternoon shade, awnings for hot sunny places); and usually an interesting mix of businesses so people can spend time and slow down (like you already mentioned, walking solely for health is a limited attraction).
Walk appeal is the foundation of any successful sustainable place!!