Walkability: Feet on the Streets

legs walking on sidewalk

Feet on the street  Image: Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

Walkability has a huge influence on whether folks choose to walk anywhere at all. And a walking commute without walkability is almost ridiculous.

But just this past week, an article in the Metro News (David Hains, Mar. 2, 2017 ) caught my attention: “Pedestrian group criticizes complete streets delay.” The gist of it is that the adoption of “complete streets” guidelines developed by the City of Toronto over a period of years has been put on hold for further study.

Apparently, not everyone agrees that sidewalks are necessary. Really?!

Complete Streets for all

A “complete street” is one that everyone regardless of age and ability can use. Sidewalks, bike lanes, transit lanes and stops, for example, as well as lanes for vehicles, are all included in the street design.

Complete streets priorities are very important to walking commuters.

Images: Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

What’s Walkability?

Walkability gets into the specifics of walking-friendly streets. There are a number of definitions of walkability. The definitions take some factors into account, and not others. Is it that complicated? Let’s look at a couple of cases.

Walkability according to Walk Score

Walk Score is an interactive online tool and it is easy and fun to use. Punch in your postal code and try it!

Walk Score creates its ratings of neighbourhoods using data such as:

  • distance to amenities
  • block length
  • intersection density

And there’s more. Walk Score data is used by others. For example, I found this interactive map of the City of Toronto’s Walk Score data by neighbourhood in an article aimed at the real estate market by BuzzBuzz News Canada.  It’s interesting to see the scores for areas of the city, rather than just a single address.

Walkability according to Toronto Public Health

The Walkable City – A Healthy Toronto By Design Report” by Toronto Public Health used a unique Walkability Index created for its study. It measured:

  • residential density
  • retail ratio
  • land use mix
  • intersection density

Toronto Public Health’s Toronto Walkability Map is not interactive, but is another interesting walkability analysis of the city. It’s easy to see that most of the highly walkable areas are in the central part of Toronto.

My Walkability Index

I noticed that neither Walk Score nor the Toronto Public Health Walkability Index have a particular interest in a walking commute. I want to bridge that gap.

I’ve created my own walkability criteria, based on my own experience, and of course with my walking commute in mind.

MY WALKABILITY REQUIREMENTS

  • Sidewalks in good condition, clear of snow and ice
  • Roads graded to minimize pooling of water
  • Street lighting
  • Street lights at intersections
  • Safe crosswalks on long blocks
  • Low chance of crime

MY BONUS WALKABILITY FACTORS

  • Width of road
  • Noise level <85dB
  • Can travel at preferred pace
  • Adjacent to plants, trees
  • Interesting built environment
  • Occasional open space to stretch the eyes
  • Beauty

Some of the factors that are important to other walkability indexes – for example, distance to amenities – are not very important in my walking commute, though very much of interest while walking in my own neighbourhood.

I’d really appreciate if the walkability analyzers would take my walkability factors into account!

Graphic of twelve bar charts

Analyze this! Image: Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

Why is walkability important?

Simply put: good walkability makes walking a viable way to get around. There are so many benefits to walking – stay tuned for a future post on this subject.

Let’s get more feet on the streets!

If you live in an area is not very walkable, contact your city councillor – tell them ALL neighbourhoods of Toronto deserve walkability!

Smiley face on sidewalk

Sidewalk art at University & College

Tweet: Walkability: is your neighbourhood walkable? https://ctt.ec/bUDts+ #thewalkingcommuter #digitaledu


If you are a walking commuter, please complete a quick SURVEY – the results of which will be shared in  a future post – Thanks!

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