Central to sustainable living is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, especially those produced by vehicles. This requires encouraging alternative methods of transport, such as cycling and walking. On the transportation side we focus on making cycling and walking safe and easy. When it comes to urban design we also consider whether it is the most attractive option.
There are two aspects to making a city inviting for pedestrians. The first is street form, and the second is building design. The goal is to increase walkability.
What is walkability?
A walkable city has a well-connected pedestrian network of sidewalks, crosswalks, paths, bridges and other features such as plazas and breezeways. It is well documented that within highly walkable cities the population tends to exercise more, and even property values and local business profits may rise because neighbors tend to socialize more. Traffic is reduced over time, or kept stable despite population growth, as people take to the streets on foot.
How do you make a city more walkable?
The massing and placement of buildings matters. Sustainable cities aim for a street level environment that is pedestrian friendly. This means that what is on the street level is interesting or useful to passerby. If you walk by block after block of windowless concrete, that is not an experience you will want to repeat, nor will it make you feel safe or welcome. If instead, the ground floors of buildings have shops, inviting lobbies, windows which allow some view of the interior, places to sit and rest, or overhangs to keep dry in a storm, then you are likely to want to take that route.
A rendering from the Sistrunk Corridor Master Plan
Therefore in sustainable communities, the height, width, and depth of buildings are carefully considered before approval, as strict guidelines are set for their placement relative to the sidewalk and also the positioning of their entryways. The goal is to create a continuous “build-to” (or setback) line that requires all buildings to meet at an optimal distance from the edge or center of the street. This is the most important factor for creating an urban, walkable environment so that pedestrians do not feel overwhelmed by buildings but yet still have a sense of place.
A second consideration is street form. Does the street physically accommodate people with a variety of needs? Can people walk side-by-side? Are they smooth enough for strollers and wheelchairs? Are there places to stop and rest? The right kind of streets have well-maintained sidewalks, overhangs or trees that provide shade, access to public transportation (via bus stops, for example), well timed crossings, and pleasant street lighting.
Finally, "connectedness" is of vital importance. Individual streets can be individually safe and pleasant, but if they do not connect to other such avenues then people cannot get to where they need to go. Initiatives such as our various mass transit projects, Safe Routes to School and Greenways help to connect pedestrians from one walkable area to another. Learn more about these on our Transportation and Mobility Plans for Tomorrow page.
What are we doing to increase walkability?
The City of Fort Lauderdale recognizes the importance of shaping development in this way and is incorporating pedestrian friendly guidelines into its planning. Policies, such as our Complete Streets Policy, ensure that our streets will consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists,transit commuters,and shopkeepers first. Traffic calming strategies such as our Connect the Blocks painted intersections make streets interesting and safer. Innovations such as lighted crosswalks also increase pedestrian safety, as well as installation of features such as landscaped medians.
We have also developed design guidelines for different parts of our city which inherently encourage pedestrian-friendly streets. For example:
- The design guidelines of the New River Master Plan require set-backs in order to provide adequate space for pedestrians to walk, and in some places cars to drive, between the banks of the New River and the structures along it.
- The North US 1 Urban Design Plan includes plans for widening and creating 10 and 20 foot multi-modal sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists with a landscape buffer adjacent to the sidewalk and improving the design of crosswalks at or near major intersections by using contrasting material and color.
- The 2012 Sistrunk Project made significant streetscape upgrades that not only beautified the boulevard but also enhanced walkability. These improvements include reducing portions of Sistrunk Boulevard from four to three lanes, widening sidewalks, improving crosswalks, and providing median and landscape enhancements.