What Makes A Neighborhood Walkable? Revisiting Coffee Talk 2.

(This originally was posted on the The Future of 35th website.)

Here in NE Seattle and other Seattle neighborhoods north of NE 85th Street, the most frequently heard answer to this question is “more sidewalks.” While sidewalks is certainly a critical component of walkability, the more complete answer is more complicated.  Traffic calming, destinations to walk to, land use, pedestrian scale lighting, ADA-accessibility, maintained vegetation, and numerous other design elements go into making a neighborhood more walkable.

How do I know this?  Well, I was at the most recent Coffee Talk in a series of Coffee Talks that the 35th Ave NE Steering Committee are putting on thanks to the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT).

On Thursday, March 22nd, Paula Reeves with WSDOT, Kevin O’Neill with SDOT, and Lisa Quinn with Feet First shared their thoughts on walkability and the importance of proximity at our 2nd Coffee Talk. The presentations and following discussion was exceptionally useful for those neighbors and 35th Ave NE Steering Committee members that came.  In case you missed it, have no fear, you can relive the Coffee Talk (in far-from-high-definition and minus the delicious coffee and donuts provided by Top Pot) here:

Download the presentations in .PDF form below:

Don’t miss the 3rd Coffee Talk, “Design at a Human Scale. A Primer on Urban  Design Concepts and City of Seattle Design Review Guidelines,”on Thursday, April 26th from 7-8:30PM at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church (Fellowship Hall).  The speakers will be John Owen with Makers Architecture and Urban Design and Cheryl Sizov, Senior Urban Planner with City of Seattle DPD.

2 Replies to “What Makes A Neighborhood Walkable? Revisiting Coffee Talk 2.”

  1. I’m not convinced that more sidewalks result in improved walkability. Indeed, 30th and 32nd Avenues near us, both unpaved, appear to be favored walking routes. Cars and pedestrians seem to coexist quite well. Indeed, Tom Vanderbilt’s fine book, Traffic, changed my thinking on oft-proposed methods of increasing safety for pedestrians. Our unpaved streets, as they dip and wind through our evergreened neighborhood seem an inducement to walkers — with improved opportunities for neighborly interaction — over straightened, leveled, paved streets on which vehicles travel at higher speeds.

    I urge caution in reaching a conclusion that may be counterproductive.

  2. P.S.: My hesitance about paving and sidewalks is reserved for side streets. Arterials like NE 95th should definitely have sidewalks.

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