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Posted
November 11, 2016

America’s Walking Renaissance

Free book shows how walking is gaining ground in cities, suburbs & small towns across US

Kids walking to school in Riceville, Iowa

From America's Walking Renaissance by Jay Walljasper, Heidi Simon & Kate Kraft, which can be downloaded for free as a PDF. 

Get a free pdf download of a new book detailing the best tips and strategies to help Americans walk more, and highlighting unexpected success stories across the country. The book chronicles how the walking movement is gaining ground all across the country—in suburbs and small towns as well as big cities and college towns:

•In Baldwin Park, a racially diverse suburb of LA, high levels of childhood obesity are dropping as the result of a community-wide effort to make walking more safe and comfortable. Two major avenues criss-crossing this town (pop. 75,000) will be transformed from high-speed corridors to “living streets” where walkers, bicyclists and transit users will be given equality priority with motorists. 

•In Batesville, AR, and Albert Lea, MN, improvements to boost walking around town are paying off in new residents, businesses and hope for the future.  Pedestrian traffic is up 69 percent in downtown Albert Lea (pop. 18,000), which has attracted $2 million dollars of new investment since being made more walk-friendly. Batesville (pop. 10,000) widened sidewalks and lowered speed limits downtown, which saved the once-failing business district.

•In Birmingham AL, a growing network of walking trails helps address problems arising from decades of economic decline, racial inequity and declining public health. Health care institutions, the United Way and county government partnered to create a Safe Routes to Schools program and the local initiative Walk Bham.

•In Arlington, VA, an innovative plan to transform neighborhoods into foot-friendly villages made it America’s Most Walkable Suburb. “Arlington is becoming a place where people matter more than cars,” says local lawyer Peter Owens. “It’s not just possible to walk here, it’s safe and comfortable to walk.”

•In Phoenix, ambitious programs to encourage walking are part of a push to become America’s healthiest city. Phoenix Children’s Hospital, city council member (and firefighter) Daniel Valenzuela and grassroots activists are major players in plans to improve sidewalks and create walking routes in the city’s numerous parks.

•In St. Paul, a multicultural community torn apart by freeway construction seeks revival and healing through better pedestrian connections. A bottom-up organizing campaign has generated many innovative ideas, including a proposal to build a park over the freeway that is getting serious attention from state officials

•In Northeast Iowa, small town kids are getting excited about walking to and at school. Walking school buses, walking trails to schools built outside town, and popular after-school walking clubs are all part of the fun. 

•In Seattle, groundbreaking policies curb speeding motorists and prevent traffic crashes. Lower speed limits on residential streets, stronger traffic law enforcement, red light cameras and plans to build more sidewalks all make this one of America’s best cities for walking

•In African-American communities coast-to-coast, GirlTrek encourages women to take charge of their health by walking regularly. “The leading cause of death for black women is heart disease,” says co-founder Vanessa Garrison. “We are dying younger and at higher rates from preventable diseases than any group of women in this country.”

•In California’s Central Valley, Latino parents are organizing campaigns to make streets hospitable for people on foot. In the town of Ceres (pop. 45,000), where 2/3 of residents are overweight, sixth graders detailed poor walking conditions near their school, resulting in new trails and other walk-to-school improvements. 

•In Indianapolis, leaders from around the world come to study the Cultural Trail—a 21st century walk-and-bike corridor winding the central city that has reinvigorated a number of struggling business districts.

•In Greater Philadelphia, the Circuit network of walking and bike trails link the entire region—300 miles so far with 450 more planned. By 2040, half of all households in the metropolitan area will be within a mile’s walk of a Circuit trail

•Even in Oklahoma City, named America’s “Worst Walking City” in 2008, big plans are underway to make life on foot easier, less dangerous and more fun. Hundreds of miles of sidewalks and recreational trails have already been constructed. Republican mayor Mick Cornett says, “Young millennials who want to walk and bike are arriving in numbers never seen before. We are creating a city where your kids and grandkids will choose to stay.”