New labels such as “walkable urban” and “drivable suburban” are now redefining America’s metropolitan areas.
During the mid to late 20th century, economies flourished as more and more drivable suburban areas were constructed. Recent studies like” Foot Traffic Ahead” are suggesting that the future of large cities lies in walkable urban development rather than these road heavy suburbs. Such a shift would call for restoration of central cities and urbanization of suburbs. The movement is predicted to spark economic prosperity much like that brought on by the road building in the 20th century.
“Food Traffic Ahead,” a recent study conducted by LOCUS, ranks 30 metropolitan areas in America in relation to their walkable urbanism, or in other words, how accessible office and retail spaces are to people through biking and walking.
Sacramento fell behind the other cities, ranking number 21 out of 30. This rank implies the city is an area of low walkability, dominated by road infrastructure. This makes it hard for pedestrians to travel safely and with ease to the places they frequent.
The study doubts that Sacramento will see any major betterment in the future because it continues to favor upgrowth based on the drivable suburban model. However, the analysis does predict slight improvement for the areas with low walkability, providing there is added support to making the city a more pedestrian- friendly place. Non-profit organizations such as WALKSacramento work with this goal in mind to promote foot and bike traffic developments.
“We are working on many different fronts,” says Teri Duarte, executive director of WALKSacramento. “At the policy level to promote walk-friendly building and street standards and to increase funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, at the design level – to make sure that what gets built will help encourage walking and biking in and around the new buildings, and at the community level – to educate people on why we need walkability, and how they can help advocate for it and how they can work to make their streets safer.”
Although spots Downtown are fairly easy to navigate by foot or bike, Sacramento still has many problem areas to address.
“The very low walkability areas in Sacramento, which pull our ranking down, are the suburbs outside of the older neighborhoods. These suburbs were built at a time when we thought that car travel was the answer to everything, and so we have neighborhoods in which everything is far apart, and the streets tend to be very high-speed and very unfriendly or even dangerous for walking,” says Duarte.
Hopefully, Sacramento can rise above its current rank of “low walkable urbanism” and avoid becoming a static statistic.