“Walkability” vs. “Ability to Walk”

“Walkability” vs. “Ability to Walk”

In relation to many of the discussions from our Friends of White Flint meeting last night, I want to discuss the important elements that define walkability. Many of our residents, local business owners, and property owners and developers are concerned about the walkability of the White Flint sector, which is essential to the success of this sector.

It is important to point out that there is a difference between providing the ability to walk and successful walkability of an area or sector.

John Olson focused certain elements that should exist in mixed-use areas, many of which you can see are important to the White Flint sector:

“Right-of-Way Dedicated to Automobile Travel (excluding on-street parking)”- Olson mentions that 50% or less of should be dedicated to the right of way of vehicles in a walkable area. In addition, efficient sidewalks, bicycling facilities, and other amenities should be the other dedication.

“Street Enclosure”- This focuses on the relationship of the ratios between the height and the width of a place and its effect on the comfort level of pedestrians and cyclists.The height of buildings should be proportionate to the width of the space or area (the street in this example).

“Building Adaptability”- Creating buildings/structures that can be easily adapted also adds to the walkability of an area. Building uses can shift especially in urban, mixed-used developments where cultural and community elements have major effects on the success of the development.

“Connectivity”- This may be the most important element especially for the White Flint sector. Creating a street grid that is a network can create connected roads, safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists “but also to connect the adjacent land uses (residential, office, parks, other commercial areas, etc.) too.”

“Maximum Parking”- Some parking is needed in mixed-used developments. On-street parking is a good strategy to use within the developments, giving some space for individuals who drive to frequent stores and restaurants. Getting rid of giant surface parking lots (something White Flint knows all too well), however, can both give more space to create commercial and residential spaces as well as cut down the reliance on cars for mobility.

 These are just some of the elements that define walkability. There are many more so what is important to you? It is really important that we hear from your members about walkability elements you hope to see here. Let us know what you think and any and all walkability concerns you want addressed by emailing us at info@whiteflint.org.

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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