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MayaMohan2 Posted by:
Maya Mohan, Department of Public Health

Maya is the Physical Activity Coordinator for DPH and loves to walk!

Have you ever gotten really excited to go out for a walk only to find out that there’s nowhere pleasant or safe to walk?  It’s a bit of a bummer, isn’t it? 

I believe it is our right to live, work and play in neighborhoods that are safe and pleasant.  The ability to safely walk around pleasant surroundings, to various destinations, should not be considered a “nice thing to have” or something that only exists in the more well-to-do neighborhoods.   I probably feel this strongly because I don’t own a car and therefore, am a slave to the MBTA which then makes my default mode of transportation my own personal Heel -Toe Express (aka my feet).  (Oh, and now also my brand-spanking-new bike, but that’s for another blog).  So, I experience on a daily basis, the hassle (and sometimes danger) of walking conditions that are less than ideal.  In my humble opinion, why should cars have the benefit of safer roadways than people?    

I’ve already introduced you to an easy walkability checklist in a previous post.  Today let’s look more closely at the kinds of things that you can request to improve walking conditions in your ‘hood.  The key to remember is that you don’t need to be an expert in land use planning, urban design or transportation engineering to ask for these changes!     

Besides the walking audit mentioned above, Wendy Landman, the Executive Director of WalkBoston, would like me to share these tips with you:   

– Check to see if traffic signals give you enough time to get across the street safely.  If they don’t, get in touch with your local public works or transportation department to let them know that safety improvements are needed.  Those lights can be re-timed to give you a longer “walk” time. 

– Check to see if there are sidewalks and crosswalks along routes that connect schools, parks, shops, town offices and elder services facilities in your community.  If the sidewalks in your neighborhood go nowhere, ask your local elected officials and local public works, planning or transportation departments about getting these facilities installed. 

– If there are uneven sidewalks or missing curb ramps ask your local public works department to get them repaired. 

Do you know how to reach your local public works or transportation department?  Just click on this Local Officials Directory.  At the left of the screen you can type in your city or town name and a searchable directory will pop up – complete with departments, names, email addresses and phone numbers! 

These two resources from WalkBoston may also be helpful as you get started: 
1) Making a More Walkable Community.  This is a short brochure that will provide you with more information on this topic. 
2) WalkBoston’s Reporting Form.  This is a reporting form that you can use when you’ve identified an “area of improvement” and would like to report to your local elected official. 

Is there an area of your neighborhood that you think could be made more “walkable”?  If so, I urge you to try the walkability audit and/or to use this reporting form – and I would love to hear your experience with it. 

Good luck, happy walking and let me know how you do! 

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