Monday, November 4, 2013

Walkability - Our Definition

Walkability, as defined by Steve Alley in his Walking Scoping Paper of February 2005, is “the extent to which the built environment is walking friendly.” -- A vague, yet obvious definition. What may be less obvious is the subject for whom the built environment is friendly or not friendly. Everyone has specific needs when it comes to mobility, and it is best to provide access for the lowest common denominator, and for those who require special consideration. This is why ADA-accessibility is so important for the design of walkable infrastructure – sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure that are designed to be easy to use for those with disabilities will be usable by all pedestrians.

In Oklahoma City there is a huge range of sidewalk quality, from wide sidewalks with sloped crosswalk cuts, all the way to streets with no sidewalks and little to no thought given to anyone other than motorists. For someone like me or my wife, getting around on foot is not very problematic, but can be inconvenient in areas that have poor pedestrian infrastructure. Our personal limitations for walking are not typical, but represent a high-end level of accessibility. Our comfortable range in terms of distance maxes out at 3.5 miles in one direction (basically a one-hour walk), making a single trip a 7-mile journey. This is by no means preferable and tends to be the limit of our physical exertion in a given day; perhaps a bit further if split into more than one trip over the course of the day.

We live in the Regency Tower on NW 5th Street (marked by the red star on the maps), and the map below shows buffers of our comfortable range ranked on the familiar A to F scale. This is just a general categorization of areas we can walk to in terms of walkability, and many other factors come into play; such as the quality of the sidewalks, the intensity of car traffic, the safety of intersection crossings, land use, and more. The concentric circles are not an accurate measure of distance in any direction other than the cardinal directions, and this is because Oklahoma City's street grid has very view diagonal streets; so, something that is 3.5 miles away on foot to the northeast, may only be 2 miles away as the crow flies! 

Because we are on the high-end of walking ability, it should be reasonable that the majority of people’s comfortable treks will be encompassed by our range of travel. We hope that this will give insight as to what the potential for walkability can be, while giving those with lesser walking ability the same value by letting them choose their own comfort scale.

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