Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Walk Appeal getting people to walk through the neighborhood

 "Several decades ago, when William H. (Holly) Whyte was doing his "street life" research and observing people walking in cities, he concluded that people will walk many blocks if the walk is interesting. The quarter mile radius nonsense came from shopping center architects who used that as a standard template. But who would want to walk more than 1200 feet in a parking lot?"-Mark Hinshaw

The more frequently you change someone's view as they walk, the better you entertain them. Entertaining those who are walking means they'll likely keep walking. link

Walk Appeal

Steve Mouzon, Better! Cities & Towns

three women walking past a sidewalk cafe in Parma, Italy
Walk Appeal promises to be a major new tool for understanding and building walkable places, and it explains several things that were heretofore either contradictory or mysterious. It begins with the assertion that the quarter-mile radius (or 5-minute walk,) which has been held up for a century as the distance Americans will walk before driving, is actually a myth.

Both images below are at the same scale, and the yellow dashed line is a quarter-mile radius. On the left is a power center. As we all know, if you're at Best Buy and need to pick something up at Old Navy, there's no way you're walking from one store to another. Instead, you get in your car and drive as close as possible to the Old Navy front door. You'll even wait for a parking space to open up instead of driving to an open space just a few spaces away… not because you're lazy, but because it's such a terrible walking experience.

The image on the right is Rome. The circles are centered on the Piazza del Popolo (North is to the left) and the Green radius goes through the Vittorio Emanuele on the right. People regularly walk that far and then keep on walking without ever thinking of driving.
satellite photo of American power center on left and Rome on right, showing quarter-mile radii and the distance that people will actually walk in each environmentThe London standard - 2 miles
streetscape in London with brick buildings trimmed in stone on either side of the street and a church with a weathered copper steeple at the end
Like Rome, the world's great cities have streets that are so good that you'll happily walk for miles. For convenience, I've set a two-mile radius for the London Standard, which was so named because I presented it for the first time in London. But it could just as easily have been the Paris Standard, the Florence Standard, or… you get the idea. Europeans are reputed to walk much further than Americans, and for this reason: their streets have much better Walk Appeal. Put a Parisian accustomed to walking five miles or more per day on a suburban American cul-de-sac, and they wouldn't walk much, either!

The T5 standard - 3/4 mile
Main Street office buildings at the Village of Providence, Huntsville, Alabama
People will walk about 3/4 of a mile on a good American Main Street. Or to be more precise, this is Transect Zone T5. Good T5 streets pull buildings right up to the sidewalk, and most of the buildings are fairly narrow because real estate is usually expensive in T5. Narrow storefronts change the walkers' view frequently, which is more entertaining than long blank walls or long stretches of the same building. New Urbanists from Australia have for years been advocating for a "elongated pedestrian shed" along Main Streets or High Streets. Walk Appeal shows precisely why they'e been right all this time....

click here to read more