Friday, November 27, 2009


Can you easily walk to where you need to be?

Caption: These photos show some of the physical impediments to walking in East and Central Hillside. (Photos by Scott Yeazle.)

By Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff


1969 – Man walks on the moon
1994 – Man walks down street
“I needed milk, so I went for it.”

The above was part of a presentation during a walkability audit of Central and East Hillside on Nov. 7.
Walkable communities are important for making a community more livable and for some individuals, their very survival. Walking to the store for some milk should not mean taking your life in your hands.
The audit included a mixture of residents and officials and is part of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). Walkability refers to how safe it is to walk in an area.
Safety can refer to the level dangerousness because of traffic or even
criminal threats. Anything that discourages a person from walking affects communities as a whole. With rising obesity rates health care costs could be trimmed if more people could easily include walking in both their residential and work neighborhoods.
Kathy Bogen, avid walker and Grant Community Collaborative director, said there are hazards to students walking to and from school. She helps walk students after school. She is especially concerned since Nettelton and Grant schools will soon be combined and many students will need to cross Sixth Avenue East.
“I regularly defy death by walking across Sixth Avenue East,” said participant Diane Anderson who walks and bikes to work and for recreation.
Codie Leeman, active living coordinator of Fit City Duluth, said that if cities follow the 8/80 rule when planning streets and development the community would be safer. That rule is asking the question, “Is this an area that would be safe for an 8 year-old to cross; and would it be safe for an 80 year-old?”
His presentation included before and after slides of what cities had done to make their most dangerous streets safer for everyone including bicyclists and pedestrians. Making a street wider is not always better. One side of a street in Tacoma, Wash looked like Duluth’s Central Entrance. A center boulevard, sidewalks and clearly painted lanes changed it to a safer place.
Discuss your ideas about walkability on The Hillsider Blog.