Walk-able vs. walk-worthy

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College Street near Dufferin, downtown Toronto

Walkable neighbourhoods are becoming widely recognized for offering many health and economic advantages. However, in order to reap the full benefits of car-free living, it is vital to understand that distance, safety and access are only part of the recipe for success.

Boring, repetitive streetscapes make even a short walk unappealing – whether you are in the city or the suburbs.

There are three deadly M’s that contribute to a negative walking experience: Monotonous, Meaningless and Mundane design.

By contrast, The Atlantic Cities, in a recent article, ‘Walk Score’ Is Great, But it Still Doesn’t Capture ‘Walk Appeal’ reports on a new diagnostic approach that helps people assess the qualities of a walk-worthy neighbourhood.

Walk Score is a terrific tool, as far as it goes. But we need other ways of quantifying walkability on our nation’s streets. The architect and urbanist Steve Mouzon is working on just such a measurement. He calls it Walk Appeal, and the idea behind it is something that we all know but don’t often acknowledge: A mile in an American suburb is a lot longer than a mile in Rome,” says The Atlantic Cities.

And blocks of identical, pseudo-Victorian or faux-Cape Cod row houses anywhere (including downtown) are looooong blocks.

New housing in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Variety is the spice of life:

How can new housing provide a more interesting walk?

How can it encourage expression of different personalities?

-Sharon VanderKaay

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