Why is it that we rarely consider walking to the bank or to the post office, even if it is less than a mile away?
See Also: Alternative Transportation: Getting Started
It is not due to our health, age, or lack of time. While many of us truly enjoy walking most of our communities simply aren’t “walker-friendly.” Our communities were built for motorists, resulting in unsafe intersections, streets without sidewalks, and a lack of benches for resting or waiting for public transportation. These and other factors can prevent us from walking regularly and using this easy, cheap, physically and environmentally healthy mode of transportation.
But don’t use this as an excuse to walk less and drive more.
We all need to make an effort to reach 10,000 steps a day. This should be our physical activity goal for good health. Instead, take action and get ready to walk. Team up with your family, friends, or neighbors, and do a “walkability” survey. You will find a step-by-step guide from AARP’s Create The Good® “Sidewalks and Streets Survey.”
Rate Your Neighborhood’s Walkability
The survey should only take an hour. The goal is to find what works and what does not work in your community. Follow these basic steps:
- Define the area to evaluate. Use the Sidewalks and Streets Survey checklist during your walk.
- Pay careful attention to your surroundings. Identify safety hazards, lack of maintenance, and other issues that might discourage pedestrians or impede access to transit stops.
- Take pictures of problem areas such as dangerous intersections.
- Take pictures of what you would like to see more of such as wide sidewalks.
Tally your results. Once you rate your area and identify concerns, you can share the survey results with the decision-makers in your community.
Walk While Waiting for Improvements
In the meantime, the best way to stay safe while walking in your community is to be aware of your body and your environment. Here are some tips:
- Use sidewalks or paths when you can. If you must walk in the road or street, face oncoming traffic so you can see and be seen by approaching motorists.
- Wear bright-colored clothing to make yourself more visible and, if you’re walking at night, carry a flashlight, wear reflective clothing, choose well-lighted areas, and be alert. Turn off your music player if you use one.
- Pick an alternate route if the street is unsafe, avoid hazardous intersections, and obey traffic signs and signals.
- Keep hydrated by drinking water before and after your walk. Consider taking a water bottle with you.