Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walkable Neighborhoods

Main Street Niagara Falls, NY, by definition should be a thriving, walkable street. What hurts its ability to thrive is the fact that traffic on the Robert Moses Parkway is diverted from Main Street, bypassing every business district.

Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stumble home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don't own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

* A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it's a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.

* Density: The neighborhood is compact enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to run frequently.

* Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other.

* Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play.

* Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back.

* Nearby schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.

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