If We Design for Walkability, Will You Actually Walk?

If We Design for Walkability, Will You Actually Walk?

The new street and sidewalk grid that is coming to the White Flint district will bring many positive features to our area. The grid is designed around the beneficial walkability elements that we hope to encourage residents to follow throughout the region. These development projects and road projects use various walkability strategies that work for many areas across the world but the success of the new White Flint district really comes down to the question of whether people will actually walk or bike around the new projects, sidewalks, and bike lanes being built.

Steve Snell focused on this issue in his recent blog post. Snell discussed three main elements of walkability of which many city planners or community developers focus on. The first is the “physical access and infrastructure” of roads, streets, and sidewalks. We want narrow enough streets and wide enough sidewalks in order to feel comfortable and safe enough to walk and bike around our neighborhoods. The second element is places and things to attend, such as restaurants, goods and services, grocery stores, bookstores, and public spaces. The third element is “proximity.” In order for people to want to walk somewhere, these goods and services must be in close proximity, often about 10 minutes is the limit  people to want to walk. These are all important elements for walkability but there are other things that are often overlooked, according to Snell.

These elements include the physical appearance of where one is walking. If an area is walkable in its physical infrastructure, it may not be walkable in its appearance or appear unsafe. Or, perhaps, driving is too expensive especially as gas prices continue to rise. Or, do the residents have a disposition to walk and explore? Snell poses that city planners must truly understand why residents are walking in their cities and neighborhoods when they are planning to develop new urban designs. It is also important to understand if residents will actually walk, once the infrastructure is there.

With the help of Friends of White Flint, our White Flint Sector Plan incorporated the wants and needs of the residents, community members, and businesses. The Plan then reflects how each of these individuals are oriented towards walkability. The Plan indicates the need for the White Flint area to have a more connected street grid that promotes walkability because we know now that our residents, community members, and businesses are oriented towards walking.

Rebecca Hertz


Rebecca Hertz is the Assistant Executive Director of Friends of White Flint. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, Worcester Massachusetts in 2012. She completed her Master’s Degree from Clark University, as well, in Community Development and Planning in 2013. She is interested in how built environments impact the health and growth of communities. Prior to this role, she worked as a youth worker and mentor for several non-profit organizations in Maryland and Massachusetts. She grew up in Rockville, MD and has recently moved back to the region.

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