Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walkability from the Renaissance Forward

With spring coming on, walkability will soon have more pertinence to many of us. I pulled together some links that offer worthwhile insights about walkability.

If you only follow one link and don’t already know Dan Burden, this is the link to follow. Burden is the genial godfather of American walkability. This video is intended as an introduction for novices, so will be too simple for many watchers. But it gives a good introduction to Burden, who is the executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch him work with the staff and citizens of Rancho Cordova as they assessed walkability issues in their newly-incorporated city. The good-natured but committed personality that Burden presents in the video is absolutely genuine. Few people take as much pure enjoyment from their occupation as does Burden. He’s a remarkably effective advocate for walkability.

A more clunky video is this effort from Greece, presenting walkability issues through a faux video game. The supposed avatar, a blind woman named “Night Vision” (ugh), must navigate through typical obstructions on a single block of an Athens neighborhood. The obstacles may seem extreme, but I often walk dogs in my Petaluma neighborhood and encounter the same difficulties that the avatar does. And if sighted people can have walkability issues, it’s hard to imagine how difficult walking can be for the blind.

Now that we’re in Europe, here is a paean to walkability about a Renaissance-era street in Rome. The street was originally designed for commerce, not walkability. But by serendipity, it’s a marvelous walking street in our contemporary world and can offer lessons about how to again incorporate walkability into our cities.

Lastly, many of you surely have friends or family who think that walkability is a thing of the past. That our car-centric and McMansion world has moved past walkability. When the issue arises during an upcoming summer barbecue, you may advise them that Americans are telling pollsters in increasing numbers that they prefer smaller homes and greater walkability.

I’m pleasantly surprised that there is so much enthusiasm at this time for walkability. However, the battle isn’t won. Until we can provide more developments and neighborhoods that allow polling preferences to be converted into lifestyles, there is still work to be done.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated. Please comment below or email me. And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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