Building a Walkable Community

The Walkable Communities, Inc. website (www.walkable.org) has a list of several qualities that walkable communities have. Why should we be concerned if our community is walkable? Because communities which foster walking are healthier, develop stronger social ties, reduce certain infrastructure costs, and offer a higher quality of living. Quality of living is one of the leading indicators for economic development as well.

Among the qualities of a walkable community which Town Branch Trail is helping to develop are:
* intact town centers
* developments with residential densities, mixed income, mixed use.
* public space
* universal design
* connections of streets and trails
* many people walking
* visionary and forward thinking

The vision for Town Branch Trail includes revitalizing older neighborhoods and commercial areas along the proposed trajectory of the trail, encouraging adaptive reuse of older buildings and a mix of development types including office, retail, live-work, residential and neighborhood support services. Residents of these areas could use the trail to commute into the center of downtown, and also have access to daily needs within easy walking distance. Discussions about activities and businesses which would surround a major trail head where the creek emerges from the ground near Rupp Arena have generated some exciting ideas that will contribute to a vibrant downtown.

The trail is designed to be accessible to people in wheelchairs and using walkers, as well as those who run and bike. Parents with children in strollers also benefit from such “universal” design. Details such as shade and benches will add to the comfort of all people using the trail.

Town Branch Trail will connect to other trails and bikeways, and to major roadways such as Broadway, Main and Vine Streets, Forbes Road, Alexandria Drive and the future Newtown Pike extension. The Newtown Pike extension’s bike lane will connect Town Branch Trail to the UK campus. The trail also links two major public green areas, McConnell Springs and Masterson Station Park. When Town Branch Trail is completed, Rupp Arena and Convention Center events will be more accessible without driving.

The location and linkages of Town Branch mean that it will be well used; creating a safe, pleasant and interesting facility. Workers from various downtown businesses will mingle with convention goers and tourists, as school kids ride bikes or elderly neighbors go for a gentle stroll. Use will occur during normal business hours, after work and on weekends, bringing energy to many areas near downtown and beyond.

Walkable Communities Inc., 320 S. Main St, High Springs, FL 32643 (386) 454-3304

What Impact do trails have on Neighbors and the Local Community?

A study was done on impacts of the Pinellas Trail in Pinellas County
(Tampa/St Pete), Florida. Some information on the study (from Whit Blanton
of Renaissance Planning Group, which conducted the study) is included below:

In 2000, the Pinellas County MPO commissioned Renaissance Planning Group of
Orlando to conduct a study of the community impacts associated with the
Pinellas Trail, a 34-mile converted railroad in the St.
Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida. The MPO was planning extensions of
the trail and connections to it from other communities, and had encountered
opposition from homeowner groups and others about potentially negative
impacts on property values, noise and crime. The study was intended to
evaluate economic impacts in terms of residential property values, business
investment, and crime statistics, and included a household survey of
residents living within 1/4 mile of the trail. The trail was divided into
segments to better capture the effect of surrounding land use and crime
characteristics. A national literature review was also completed.

Major findings:
The literature review concluded that trails have a deterrent effect on
crime, a neutral or slightly positive effect on property values, and bring
new money into the local economy. This was borne out by the local analysis.

For all trail segments studied, the median home sale prices adjacent to the
trail are escalating faster than countywide. The rate of increase was
particularly high in certain areas. The results indicated that the trail
does not negatively impact property values and suggested that it may help
increase property values by roughly 2 percent to 3 percent annually over
inflation.

In St. Petersburg, it was determined that crime rates for “trail tracts” were not statistically
different from citywide crime tracts. Accordingly, the Pinellas Trail does
not contribute to crime rates. Peaks in crime rates seem to be related to
the character of the area rather than to the existence of the Pinellas
Trail. Generally, the 1993, 1995, and 1999 crime statistics support the
finding that the trail has not exacerbated criminal activities. Factors
external to the trail are better indicators of crime rates.

There were several important findings from the residents’ survey. The most
negative perceptions of the trail are held by the 5 percent of residents who
have never used the trail. Even though infrequent users gave the Pinellas
Trail a negative overall rating, their composite score was not as low as the
score given by residents who had not been on the trail. Infrequent users
were primarily concerned about the trail’s adverse impact on crime, privacy,
and noise. As a group, they still rated the trail as having a positive
impact on property values, accessibility, and neighborhood acquaintances.
Daily users had the highest composite rating of the trail; however, they
were still marginally concerned about crime (0.09) and privacy (0.05). The
single strongest indicator of trail perception is trail usage and, because
of the high use of the trail (66%), the overall perception of the trail is
positive.

While the trail is generally seen as a community asset, the neighborhoods
that are the most concerned about the Pinellas Trail are those who perceive
inequities between communities in the way that the trail is constructed,
maintained, and policed.

Realtors were surveyed as well, and 90 percent said that home sales had
increased significantly or increased somewhat in areas near the trail versus
other areas in the market.

The business survey revealed that a majority of businesses near the trail
were expanding their facilities or experiencing increasing sales, and
generally reported positive impacts from their proximity to the trail.

Copies of the report can be obtained by contacting Al Bartolotta of the
Pinellas County MPO (727-464-8200; abartolo@co.pinellas.fl.us
). RPG contact is Whit Blanton. (wblanton@citiesthatwork.com

Jennifer Z. Carver, AICP
Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Planner
Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency
300 South Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 891-8090 S/C 280-8090
Fax: (850) 891-8734
carverj@talgov.com

Landmarks along Town Branch

Masterson Station Park. Lexington’s largest park, once pastures for Kentucky’s first Methodist Church built in 1787. Rambling park offers equestrian facilities, a dog run, soccer fields, bird nesting areas and ample greenspace.

Town Branch Greenway Phase I and II of the trail have been planned, funded and await construction. This initial two mile segment runs from Bracktown and the entrance of Masterson Station to Lewis Manor and Alexandria Drive.

Lewis Manor. Federal-style national register home built at the turn of the 19th century by Col. Thomas Lewis, a Revolutionary War veteran. Home is adjacent to historic spring that feeds Town Branch.

Wolf Run Creek. As a tributary to Town Branch Creek, Wolf Run provides a potential link for a trail into the Cardinal Valley neighborhood.

Veterans’ Hospital. Handsomely landscaped campus of stately Colonial Revival medical buildings that have served the Bluegrass since 1931.

Former City landfill. This site is undergoing extensive environmental clean up. Like Raven’s Run, it has the potential to provide vital reclaimed greenspace.

Old Woolen Mill. Built circa 1820, this large stone ruin is the oldest remaining industrial building along Town Branch. The mill later served as a jail and city work house. It is owned by the urban-county government.

Spring Hill Farm. National register Greek Revival farmhouse and outbuildings circa 1850 encircled by a rock fence. It is owned by the urban-county government.

McConnell Springs. Site of the founding of Lexington in 1775. A recently dedicated city park with a engaging interpretive trail. The Blue Hole spring and lofty bur oaks afford a pleasant stroll through our unique karst topography.

McConnell Houses. William and James McConnell, pioneer founders of Lexington, built two dry-laid stone houses circa 1790 along Town Branch Creek. These are among the oldest structures remaining in the Bluegrass.

James E. Pepper Distillery. Home to “Old 1776.” One of the earliest sites for bourbon making in the Bluegrass pulled water from a neighboring spring. Large buildings used in bourbon-making remain beside Town Branch Creek.

Town Branch Creek Stone Walls. Despite a century of neglect, dry-laid stone creek banks that date back to Lexington’s early history still line the stream.

Mary Todd Lincoln House. The childhood home of one of Lexington’s most famous citizens is now a beautifully restored house museum with a formal garden.

Lexington Civic Center and Heritage Hall. A premiere state venue for conventions, athletics, and entertainment. In Triangle Park a 300-foot long cascading fountain is a favorite gathering place on summer evenings.

Old Courthouse and Cheapside Park. The Old Courthouse was built in 1899 on the site used for Fayette County Courthouses for 200 years. Cheapside Park has been the scene of a wide spectrum of community history from slave auctions, early schools and markets to political speeches and public riots.

Farmer’s Market. On Saturday mornings during the growing season Lexingtonians can find the finest local and regional produce at this vibrant outdoor marketplace. Site of former 1879 Lexington City Market House.

New Courthouse Plaza and Phoenix Park. New public urban spaces stand in the midst of art galleries, theatres, restaurants, and a dramatic five story Foucault Pendulum and Clock in the central library.

Bank One Plaza and the Kentucky Theater. This Main Street park is a favorite outdoor spot for a picnic lunch from the various nearby restaurants. Across the street is Lexington’s historic

Kentucky Theater, a 1922 ornate movie house restored as a favorite venue for live performances and movies.

Thoroughbred Park. A linear fountain anchors elegant stone work and superbly rendered bronze sculptures of racing thoroughbreds. A rose garden awaits the winner.

Charles Young Park and Goodloetown. Here the Trail will link to another of Lexington’s historic African-American settlements and to one of the city’s older neighborhood parks, named after an African-American veteran of WWI.


How can Town Branch Trail benefit our community?Download TBT 4-page Guide (1.6 Megabyte PDF)

Greenway Trails = Improved Community Health

The design and planning of our communities plays a major part in our health and wellbeing. The consequences of sprawl are very serious for many reasons. Here’s just one:

The Challenges in Health: Getting America Moving Again

Physical inactivity is a major cause of sickness and disease in the United States. Inactivity – and its close companion, obesity – are responsible for as many as 23 percent of all premature deaths from the major chronic diseases. This is true despite many recent advances in the prevention and treatment of these diseases. Inactivity and obesity threaten the current and future health of millions of Americans.

Sound depressing? Sure, but here’s another way to think of it: Americans aren’t overweight, they’re just under-walked and under-biked!

Take a quick look at some sobering statistics:

* Obesity is associated with a lot of trouble we don’t want for ourselves or our families: heart disease, certain types of cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems, and psychological disorders, such as depression.

* The percentage of overweight adolescents has nearly tripled in the past two decades. In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years were overweight.

Back in 1918, the U.S. Children’s Bureau said, “The health of the child is the power of the nation.” That’s why people in public health today are so alarmed about the percentage of overweight young people. They know that all types of physical activity tend to decline as we get older.

* Did we mention expensive? The cost of health problems associated with obesity in the United States in 2000 was estimated to be a staggering $117 billion.

Let’s examine what’s fueling our troubling trends.

One major factor is urban sprawl and a transportation system designed for cars, rather than people. The decline in physical activity – and the related surge in obesity – parallels the lack of opportunities we have to bicycle and walk in and beyond our neighborhoods.

Walking and bicycling aren’t just about enjoying the outdoors: they are key components of a strong nation’s public-health plan. By taking a walk or going for a bike ride, you are actually practicing preventative medicine. The opportunities that exist (or don’t exist) to enjoy these activities are a reflection of your community’s commitment to the health and well-being of you and your neighbors.

From The National Center for Bicycling and Walking (http://www.bikewalk.org/)

Happy trails

Christian Science Monitor, from the November 19, 2003 edition

Want to get to the post office in a hurry? The nearest bike trail may be the best way.

By Ross Atkin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Retired warehouseman George Redman loves to hit the trail – the asphalt ribbon that runs only a few blocks from his house in East Providence, R.I. Year-round, the 79-year-old grabs his trusty 10-speed Schwinn, the one with the saddlebags on the back and an additional bag in the front, and takes a daily spin, often 20 miles or more along Narragansett Bay.
Besides offering ample fresh air and exercise, the bicycle rides connect Mr. Redman to people and places in a way that nothing else does.

He explores towns, stops to read a book or buy a bottle of water, and frequents his favorite sandwich shop, the Café la France in Bristol, R.I., with its outdoor tables and bike rack.
Unlike traditional bike paths, the trail Redman uses isn’t strictly recreational. It is utilitarian. Instead of just passing through lovely scenery, it takes him and others to useful places, illustrating what some experts see as the future of trails.
In the past, recreational trails were typically located outside cities, says Richard Killingsworth, director of Active Living by Design, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This didn’t allow them to connect destinations of interest. But now we’re entering a new kind of paradigm, looking at how trails can be used as transportation corridors, located in dense residential areas where they connect people to places they want to go.”
The shift is an acknowledgment that trails must integrate with everyday lives. Otherwise they serve a relatively small constituency of Lycra-clad cycling enthusiasts and suburbanites out for Saturday fun or exercise rides, which begin by driving to the trail.
Nowadays, the idea is to make it easy and attractive to think the way Europeans do, who are more inclined than Americans to cycle during their daily rounds.
Certainly Redman is a pedaling billboard for the benefits of regular trail use. And Rhode Island, where he rides, is an excellent example of the networking that is increasingly connecting scattered, local trail-building efforts.
The East Bay Bike Path runs 14-1/2 miles through towns and hamlets, eventually making a connection that leads into Providence, where the plan is for several trails to converge and link to the ambitious East Coast Greenway, a 2,600-mile work in progress.
When completed, possibly by 2010, this interurban, firm-surface equivalent to the Appalachian Trail will run from the Canadian border in Maine to the Florida Keys.
It’s being pieced together – like a massive quilt – sometimes in high-visibility areas. Last year, for example, one stretch was designated that runs along the Mall in Washington, at the heart of the nation’s capital. Another metro trail runs to Washington National Airport.
Major trails, such as the East Coast Greenway, are like tree trunks from which many branches (local trails) grow.Mark Fenton, a cycling advocate and host of the PBS program “America’s Walking,” says that creating numerous connections is the key to the increased usage public trails have begun to experience.
This is evident in Seattle, which has set itself apart with bike-friendly initiatives, including the Burke-Gilman trail, a granddaddy among urban trails. “Much of what has happened there,” Mr. Fenton says, “is not at all glamorous. It’s [a network of] little neighborhood connectors – maybe the cut-through at the end of a cul de sac that allows you to access a trail from a neighborhood that connects to a school or a playground or something like that. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Trail connectivity is a challenge, especially in built-up areas. This is where unused or abandoned railroad corridors and canal towpaths have come in handy.
The rails-to-trails movement converts out-of-use railroad rights of way to trails. In doing so it has become increasingly important to developing urban trail infrastructure, since rail corridors often run through the middle of towns and are ready-made and mostly flat.
The US has 12,648 miles of rail trails that serve about 100,000 users a year, and many more miles are under development or under consideration. When available rail corridors run out, many communities are marking off bike lanes at the sides of streets. (The East Coast Greenway, when completed, should be 20 percent on-road.)
Indianapolis is going even further with its bold plan to build the Cultural Trail, a downtown greenway that would use existing traffic lanes to connect five designated cultural districts.
One lane of the center city’s wide thoroughfares would be co-opted for a multiuse, 6-1/2-mile landscaped trail. Approval seems almost certain for this $15 million to $20 million project, which aims to enhance the city’s appeal to both residents and visitors. If built, it would also connect with the very popular Monon Trail and create a circuit for cafe- and theater-hopping.
“Probably 70 percent of the time you’d be seeing something beautiful, and every five or 10 minutes you could stop and find a restaurant, a gallery, a store, or park,” says Brian Payne, president of the Indianapolis Foundation, a major supporter of the project.
Tourists might also be able to use the path. New smart-card technology could be employed to automate bike rentals at various points.
There’s mounting evidence that municipalities and homeowners like bikeways and trails. Homeowners see them as a popular neighborhood amenity that often enhances property values, and civic leaders view trails as green infrastructure that links open spaces and creates alternative transportation routes.
Still, building trails can be a long, arduous process, which may bog down over jurisdictional, design, and approval issues. For example, the Minuteman Bikeway, which stretches 11 miles between Cambridge and Lexington, Mass., took 18 years to complete.
In Michigan, the GreenWays Initiative is helping to stimulate faster action and foster greater regional cooperation. A program of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, the initiative has created a $75 million financial incentive for greenway development in a seven-county area that includes Detroit.
In three years 53 grants have been made to local trail developers, and more groups are “lining up,” says GreenWays director Tom Woiwode. “By having a time line, we’re trying to create an urgency to get these plans done and projects started.”
Some of the most exciting plans involve Detroit, where a three-mile riverfront trail could stimulate development of a citywide network, fanning out from the banks of the Detroit River to every neighborhood.
Roughly a half-dozen subregional trail coalitions have been formed among neighboring communities. In addition, Mr. Woiwode says, what began as a movement of bicyclists and hikers has now grown into a movement of community activists, with architects, planners, public health advocates, and businesspeople all joining in.
After a trail is finished, there’s often a need to acquaint people with the trail. “The first users you’re going to see on the trail are the hard core from the local walk and biking clubs,” Fenton explains. “Then you’ll see groups and families, dads and moms with the kids. Over time, more routine use by individuals will become common.” At that point, the trail has arrived.