Better Sidewalks = Happier Communities

Good Sidewalk Design

Have you ever walked on a narrow sidewalk along a busy road with nothing but a 6″ curb between you and distracted drivers, fearfully mumbling to yourself, please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me? How often have you had to dodge telephone poles, inconveniently-placed parking meters, and lights while you stroll? How many times have you decided to drive a short distance because there weren’t any good options to walk the mile and a half to your destination?  Too often, I bet.

Well-designed sidewalks are a critical component of the transformation of the White Flint area into a work-live-play community.

Now you might not think there’s much to say about sidewalks, but take a moment to read this very interesting article, “The Eight Principles of the Sidewalk.” The illustrations in the article effectively demonstrate the difference between good and bad sidewalks.

  1.  Sidewalks are made of up three zones: the free zone, where people actually walk; the service zone, where street furniture like benches or trashcans are located; and the transition zone, which gives those on the sidewalk access to buildings lining the street.
  2. The material used to construct sidewalks needs to be consistent, firm, stable and slip-resistant.
  3. Sidewalks must be quickly drained of water so puddles don’t form.
  4. Sidewalks must serve serve those in wheelchairs, on crutches, pregnant women, the elderly, and others with special mobility needs.
  5. Sidewalks need to connected and integrated within larger transport networks.
  6.  Interesting, vibrant sidewalks that can captivate people will make walking more attractive.
  7. Adopt strategies to positively influence safety and security.
  8. Pedestrians must be given clear information and good signage.

The 20-Minute Neighborhood

What if you could reach everything you could possibly need within 20 minutes of leaving your front door?  This is a movement that is stretching across the globe – from Melbourne, Australia, to Portland, Oregon – and is exactly what we’re talking about for little ol’ White Flint, Maryland.  A 20-minute neighborhood offers food, schools, parks and transit within a short walk from your home.  Not only are there economic benefits when residents’ hard-earned dollars remain local, but there are health and community benefits, as well.

To create a 20-minute neighborhood, though, we need not only grocery stores and other commercial options, but we need to ensure safe pedestrian access.  The improved street grid and safety plans for the White Flint district will move our area in the right direction, from an infrastructure perspective.

The city of Melbourne, from whom the above image came, recently released a strategy paper on how to make this happen:

A 20-minute city should have jobs for outer area residents and diverse housing in the right location at a reasonable price, a preview of the blueprint released yesterday states.

A “principles” paper released earlier this year said 20-minute cities had “safe, convenient and attractive local areas” that met the daily needs of residents with good local employment prospects and local services.

Mr Guy told the ABC that the city centre should operate over 24 hours but it needed to be managed.

Read more:

Vancouver and Calgary are also marching in this direction; their goals are 15-minute neighborhoods.  Read more about them here.

Montgomery County is starting to hit all the right points by retrofitting our suburb to ensure services, transit and amenities within closer proximity to our homes and jobs.  They’ve also completed work on the Nighttime Economy – an important piece mentioned in the Melbourne plan.  Once again, we need not reinvent the wheel in order to build a vibrant White Flint – our neighbors from around the world are forging the path with exciting results!

The Power of Walkability: A Town’s Million Pound Loss

TED Talks recently released a video from April 2013 of Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, discussing the healthy transformation his city recently experienced. Mayor Cornett speaks about how his city, once named by Men’s Health Magazine as one of the fattest cities in America, was able to lose a collective million pounds through the use of a few strategies. Cornett mentions that focusing on sidewalks connecting services and amenities throughout the city was a huge factor in this amazing transformation. We hope that the sidewalks and walkable areas in White Flint will inspire healthy changes among our residents, as well!

Please enjoy this video and share any and all thoughts!


Do You Feel Safe Walking in White Flint? MCDOT is listening

At the moment, our car-centric area may not feel the most friendly to people wanting to get around in other ways.  This will improve over time as the redevelopment’s infrastructure is built out.  But, that’s a lengthy proposition.  What about folks who want to walk instead of drive now?

Although the major overhaul of a road is a multi-year, big bucks process, there are some fixes for pedestrian safety that can be made quickly by our county and state Departments of Transportation.  But, they need your comments and guidance to know where the biggest problem areas are.  So, we’re calling on our Friends for their eyes on the ground.

When you’re out and about in the White Flint area, do you notice:

  • Burned out traffic or streetlights?
  • Places where lighting is otherwise lacking?
  • Faded striping in crosswalks or intersections?
  • Sidewalks that are bumpy or otherwise in disrepair?
  • Areas where you feel particularly unsafe?

If so, post a comment here or email directly them to me at and I’ll get the information to the right folks at MCDOT.  Let’s all get involved in making this a more walkable area right now.  County Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer are doing their part.  Stay tuned tomorrow for more about legislation they’ve introduced that will move Montgomery County’s urban areas toward a model of “Complete Streets.”