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Redefining Walkability Examining equity and creating safer streets for all in DC

The Urban Institute’s walkability report: “When the District of Columbia launched its Vision Zero initiative in 2015, a pedestrian or cyclist had been dying on the city’s streets every 21 days. Now, seven years into an initiative intended to eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2024, the District has gone backward: in 2021, a pedestrian or cyclist died in the nation’s capital every 18 days.  For the pedestrians and cyclists who navigate American cities, safe streets not only entail usable sidewalks and bike lanes, they also entail everything that makes someone willing to walk or bike through a neighborhood, such as a comfortable environment and freedom from fear of arrest, among other goals. In decades past, transportation planners and policymakers in cities across the country demolished Black neighborhoods to add highways and invested in public transit systems that provided unequal access to communities of color. As a result, walkability across the US is highly racialized, with communities of color living in less-walkable neighborhoods that have fewer street lights, higher speed limits, and more police stops per capita. Based on new research, we seek to expand the definition of walkability beyond the quality of infrastructure to emphasize equity and to inform policymakers who are working to meet Vision Zero goals. We have developed several indexes to reflect many of the issues that affect walkability in neighborhoods across Washington, DC. These indicators include measures that reflect access to resources, environmental quality, policing, infrastructure quality, and traffic safety. We also developed an index of neighborhood demographic information to pinpoint where investments can best address historical injustice in infrastructure planning and funding. When exploring the walkability scores below, you can use the priority neighborhoods checkbox to highlight communities that scored above the 68th percentile on the equity index. Although no single measure of walkability can fully encompass the challenges pedestrians face, these maps can begin to show the different stories of these indexes and the scope of changes needed to ensure safe, convenient, and comfortable walking throughout the District…” [“A pedestrian or cyclist is killed every 18 days in the District” / Axios]

See also Popular Science – The resurgence of open public streets is a centuries-old idea. “Nearly a century ago, a skyscraper architect designed a future city that transformed streets into outdoor gathering spaces. That idea is making a comeback.”

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