Research Rest-Stop — Walk Appeal

Urban designers, transportation experts, and city planners spend lots of time and effort to make walking on city streets safe, attractive, and convenient.  Walkable streets and neighborhoods help make dense urban areas more livable by bringing schools, shops, restaurants, parks, entertainment and transit options within close proximity to residents.

The walkability of an area is measured by comparing the number of potential destinations (e.g. shops, schools, parks, etc.) within a certain distance of a specific location (e.g. a residence).  The distance used is known as the Walkshed, which is the average distance a person is willing to walk, before deciding to use an automobile.  The traditional walk shed is ¼ mile, or about a 5-minute walk.

Building walkable places also affects the people who live in those areas.  Walkable streets and neighborhoods increase a person’s willingness to walk.  This makes intuitive sense – if an area is considered a nice place to walk through, people will choose to walk, even if it is longer than the traditional ¼ mile.  Walk Appeal is a new measurement that quantifies how willing a person will walk based on the neighborhood. 

Walk Appeal identifies six walkshed standards.  The largest walkshed, known as the ‘T5 Standard’ is ¾ mile and is characterized by a smaller street, with diverse and narrow shop fronts, and buildings that are pulled right up to the sidewalk.  The area is interesting to the pedestrian, with plenty of shops, people, and activity to look at while walking. The smallest pedestrian shed is the ‘Parking-Backed Standard’ and is only 25 feet.  This walkshed is characterized by a parking lot on one side of the sidewalk, and a busy arterial thoroughfare on the other.  This area is not interesting, filled with exhaust fumes, and not safe for pedestrians.

In Philadelphia, there are all levels of walkability as well as all Walk Appeal standards.  When we think about our neighborhoods and calculate the area’s walkability, it is important to factor in the Walk Appeal to get a more accurate measurement of walkability.  It may turn out that an area is actually more walkable than what is reported.   

Want to know more?

Better! Cities & Towns: Walk Appeal

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