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Walkable Communities 101: What Is a Livable Community?



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By : Tarek Safadi    99 or more times read
With so many developers embracing innovative and environmentally-friendly building practices and urban planners getting back to creating more live/work communities, "walkable" is a word that has been enjoying a big surge of popularity lately. But what does that word mean, exactly? Well, it's actually pretty simple.

A walkable community is one wherein all homes are, at most, five minutes (by foot) from all the amenities residents need to live a happy, healthy life. These amenities include a variety of retail businesses, a pharmacy, library, schools, banking and business opportunities, services for youth and seniors, a post office, and other such resources. A walkable community has public space for children to play and for people to meet, accessible by all residents. Perhaps most importantly, walkable communities have the means for walking. In other words, there are plenty of well-maintained sidewalks, crosswalks, and respectful motorists.

Many organizations have sprung up in recent years to educate the public and policy-makers on the benefits of communities that support pedestrian transportation. WalkScore is one such initiative. This innovative web application allows you to input your address (or your prospective address) and then find out how pedestrian-friendly your community is.

According to WalkScore, walkability can fall within one of four ranges: Car-Dependent, where all or most errands require the use of a car; Somewhat Walkable, pedestrians can access some amenities; Very Walkable, almost all errands can be achieved on foot; and Walker's Paradise, where no errands require driving on a day-to-day basis. Organizations like Walkable.org and WalkLive.org provide resources for those wishing to learn about walkable cities and tools for implementing more walkable qualities into their communities.

Aside from the many practical benefits of walkable (also known as livable) communities, there are also many health and societal gains that can be made from living in such an environment. Quite obviously, those who live in a walkable community will be more likely to get around on foot, which is one of the best and lowest-impact exercises anyone can do. Seniors and schoolchildren alike can benefit from the ease and pleasure of walking.

This abundance of physical fitness leads to mental alertness and a decrease in mental illness. Studies show that rates of depression drop dramatically when subjects follow any regular physical fitness routine, including low-impact activities like walking. A stroll outside also means coming into contact with one's neighbours and community members, which is a great way to build community and, possibly, reduce crime rates.

It's clear that walkable communities are on the rise in North American cities. Urban planners are answering the ever-growing call for neighbourhoods designed for the people who live in them. Economic, social and environmental prosperity, convenience, and health are all great reasons to look for a home in a walkable community.
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