Sociology how to Design a Walkable Neighborhood

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Eye catching, big red ‘For Sale’ signs fighting the wind, rain and harsh sun are deemed the ‘tumble weeds of the era.’ They signal much more than the present day economic crisis. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that these significant signs of market disasters are not solely due to predatory lending and lax standards, another cause for the high foreclosure rates is said to be car dependency. Researchers behind the Location Efficiency and Mortgage Default Report noted that the rate of mortgage foreclosure actually decreased in neighbourhoods which were relatively compact, connected to public transport and were walkable.Those residing in location efficient areas were far less likely to default.

When one is less dependent on cars, living in scenic walkable, friendly connecting neighbourhoods one stays put. If one can ditch the car, walk to the stores, school, places of interest and so forth, your house is location efficient. Not everyone wants a plethora of roads and parking lots. Perchance you are fortunate enough to be involved in the designing of a walkable neighbourhood. If so, this article is for you. Careful consideration to the planning process will lead to a successfully designed walkable neighbourhood. A walkable neighbourhood is one in which there are areas which have no allowances for vehicles other than bicycles, stroller or mobility scooters. Of course some types of vehicles will need access to the homes in the neighbourhood such as emergency vehicles, removal trucks and service vehicles for powerlines etc.

Walkable neighbourhoods allow developers to fit as many housing units into one area as possible. Cars, roads, take up so much valuable space. Alternatively, walkable neighbourhoods allow for larger homes to be constructed as well. Walkways, buildings and a host of other design features must be welcoming as well as practical. While houses which all face the same way look relatively neat and tidy, with lovely straight paths running through the centre of a strip of grass, reality states otherwise. Neighbours will be able to look right into your back yard, watch you as you entertain guests etc. There will certainly be a lack of privacy. Therefore a range of assorted housing styles, facing in different directions is the better option.

 Houses need to be of assorted levels as well for better comfort impact. One also needs to note that too many straight line houses become unbearable to the eyes after a while. Paths should be curved every now and then so break up the paths with smooth curves which blend in well with the scenic delights. Avoid 90 degree corners as much as possible and soften the edge of these paths with eye catching shrubs and trees. These trees and shrubs must not intrude on the sense of safety to the residents so ensure they are not too high or dense. Walkable neighbourhoods have a host of assets over those communities primarily focused on car friendliness.

Planning Paths?

Give consideration to natural routes which people will take to get to shops, homes, schools and places of interests, doctors and so forth. If there are not enough natural routes people will create an eyesore of various paths weaving every which way.


Give thought to recreational areas when planning a walking neighbourhood. Parks or open grass areas are must haves. Hopefully picnic areas can be incorporated into the planning of the walkable neighbourhood. Toilet facilities will be needed as well as dog walking areas.

Give thought to the terrain:

The young and the old will need relatively smooth terrain. Prams, mobility scooters etc, don’t go too well on terrain which is rough, muddy, sloped and dotted with holes, gravel, rocks and so forth. Every individual must be well catered for. Give much thought to what materials will be used for paths. Wooden or mesh walking planks, grass, pavers, sand, soil and so forth must be appropriate for the surrounds and natural elements.


Everyone makes use of walking paths at various times. While most people enjoy a leisurely walk in the daytime, many people enjoy a stroll in the cool of the evening while the haloed moon looks down from above. Good lighting will be needed in specific areas to ensure the safety of one and all. Low level bollards are the ideal options.

Scenic delights:

Nothing is more soothing to the soul as we walk around our neighbourhood than to gaze upon pretty rock gardens, shrubs filled with an abundance of colour and eye catching calming features. Perhaps a couple of park benches will be much appreciated as well. These will blend in well if situated beneath a beautiful shady tree.


Although it may be surprising to some, aesthetics has a major impact on the tranquillity on walking neighbourhoods. Jill Johnstone, an Australian real estate agent says, “ People are more inclined to purchase homes in areas where there is an abundance of scenic delights.” Walkways which pass factories with clouds of industrial smoke billowing from air vents is horrific to many. But when one can take a leisurely stroll passing serene creeks, picturesque parkland and so forth, the experience is wonderful. By utilizing commonsense while taking all this into account one can plan a walkable neighbourhood which is second to none. This also means in-depth consideration to where shops, places of interest, medical facilities, hospitals, dentists and schools are located.

Kid friendly:

The ideal walking neighbourhood will remember the younger residents as well. Kids love nothing better than to play in parks, fly kites, kick a ball, roll on the grass and so forth. When planning a successful walking neighbourhood try to cater to the children as well. Small areas allocated specifically for roller skating, skateboard ramps and so forth would be highly appreciated by the youngsters and teenagers. Designated play areas with shaded sand pits, swings, see saws and such will have children happy and content.

Rain, hail, sleet, snow and sun protection:

Many cities are as hot as Hades at times, think UV rays and the damage this can do to skin. Shaded walkways will be an asset indeed and this can be done by the planting of stately tress, using shade cloths or constructing fully covered walkways to protect one and all from the glare of the hot sun. High rain prone areas will need covered areas as well and one should take into account that wet walkways can be dangerous. Use materials for walkways which soak up moisture. Awnings or some type of protection will be needed for shopping areas, medical centres, bus stops etc as well.

Author’s Note:

Most real estate agents deem a walking community an area which is not much further than a mile from homes and schools etc. A walk of less than 30 minutes is ideal and a drive of no more than five minutes is a must. When planning a walking neighbourhood, ensure that all buildings whether they be houses, shops, factories and so forth, are placed in a manner which groups shops together, factories etc to alleviate the chance of creating a true eyesore. Do make an allowance for public transport as one will need some form of alternative travel at some stage.

Ensure that when planning a walking community all necessary amenities are near at hand, schools, heath services, libraries, shops, banks, gas stations and so forth. Walkable communities are wonderful places to reside, work, play, learn, befriend others and worship.Located within an easy safe location, walkable communities increase the levels of personal activity for everyone. Walkable neighbourhoods lower transportation costs, increase social interaction, improve the environmental health as well as personal health of its residents and expands consumer options. Intelligent land use and good community design plays a major role in encouraging pedestrian environments. By creating places which offer a multitude of destinations within close proximity, one creates a haven indeed.

More about this author: Russell Waldron

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