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Walk Friendly Communities Encourages Safer Walking Environments

In an interview with Grist last week, I talked about livable communities. And one of the central features of livability is that you can get where you need or want to go without having to get into your car. For many reasons--the hassle of congested roadways, the need to reduce carbon emissions, the desire for better health--that's what Americans have said they want.

Making a community safer for walking is one way to improve livability. And a new program called Walk Friendly Communities encourages towns and cities across the country to make safer walking environments a high priority.

The Walk Friendly Communities program will recognize communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access, and comfort. It is sponsored by DOT’s Federal Highway Administration along with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and FedEx.

As FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez said, "Walk Friendly Communities will show how cities and towns across the country are creatively improving walkability and demonstrating leadership in addressing pedestrian safety concerns."

Walking is one way of improving health through increased physical activity. But increasing the opportunities for people to walk in your community also offers other benefits.

How can Walk Friendly Communities help? The program offers a comprehensive assessment tool to evaluate community walkability and pedestrian safety. Questions in the online survey cover a community's efforts in engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and planning. The program will accept applications until December 15, 2010.

For some towns and cities, the assessment will tell you what you already know--your efforts have resulted in a walk friendly community--and you will receive national recognition for that achievement.But even if you don't think your community is "walk-friendly" yet, completing this assessment can help you confirm the successes in your area and pinpoint elements that need greater attention before you can establish the safest walking community possible.

At DOT, we are committed to giving Americans more choices that foster active, livable communities. And this initiative will do just that by improving pedestrian safety in areas across the country and providing a safe means of walking in and around their neighborhood.

If your community wants to work toward the livability Americans say they want, please take advantage of this terrific new program.

Cross-posted from the Department of Transportation Fast Lane blog