As we wrap up another year here at Strong Towns, we’re going to use the next two weeks to highlight some of the best content we published in 2018. We want to make sure these great pieces come to your attention—whether you missed them the first time around, discover something new in them on a second read, or think of somebody you’d love to share them with.
Our goal is to change the conversation about growth, development, and community prosperity in every city and town in North America. That means giving you, the members of the Strong Towns movement, the tools to have better conversations with your friends, colleagues, and local officials about what makes for a productive place.
One key attribute that financially productive and resilient places tend to have in common is walkability. Walkable places are places that are built to the human scale: where a person on foot feels not only safe, but comfortable and inclined to linger. These are the places where life happens, and it shows when you #DoTheMath: walkable places foster more economic activity and deliver a better return on investment, square foot for square foot, than places designed around motor vehicles.
Best of 2018: Why Walkable Streets are More Economically Productive, by Rachel Quednau (Strong Towns)
What is the value of a street where people can walk safely? Why build streets that are constructed with the needs of people in mind, not just the needs of cars?
Many people concerned with pedestrian safety and “walkability” care about these issues because they feel that walking is good exercise or that walkable places are more attractive or that walking is better for the environment than driving.
These are all valid arguments and may convince some of those reading this article that walkability is important. But what I want to talk about today isn’t an argument based on values or aesthetics. It’s an argument based on pure dollars and cents — one that should convince people with a myriad of values and political leanings that people-oriented places must be a priority if we want our communities to be economically prosperous.
Again and again, when we look at streets oriented toward people — that is, streets where walking is safe and enjoyable, that people are drawn to visit on foot, and where fast and extensive car traffic is not the #1 priority — we find that they are more economically productive than any other style of development. This is particularly true when we compare people-oriented places to car-oriented places—think of that stretch of your town that effectively does everything possible to discourage walking and biking, including a street with multiple wide lanes to ensure fast car movement, acres of parking, and minimal (if any) sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks.
Walkable streets, on the other hand, encourage business activity, generate greater tax revenue per acre and offer a higher return on investment than auto-oriented streets …