Skip Navigation
Print Email Facebook Tweet Share
Text Size: A A A

Step It Up! Everyone Can Help Make Our Communities More Walkable

Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design 

All Americans use roads, and most people across the country use sidewalks and live in communities that have planned how their land will be used. Transportation, land use, and community design planners have the power to increase opportunities for walking and improve the pedestrian experience by designing and maintaining communities and streets to make them safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities.

The transportation, land use, and community design sector can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Design and maintain streets and sidewalks so that walking is safe and easy.

  • Design streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks that encourage walking for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Improve traffic safety on streets and sidewalks.
  • Keep existing sidewalks and other places to walk free from hazards.

Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk.

  • Adopt community planning, land use, development, and zoning policies and plans that support walking for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Locate schools, worksites, businesses, parks, recreational facilities, and other places that people regularly use within walkable distance of each other.
  • Support safe, efficient, and easy-to-use public transit systems and transit-oriented development.

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.

  • Provide safe and convenient access for all users to community locations that support walking, such as walking trails, parks, recreational facilities, and college campuses.

Parks and Recreational and Fitness Facilities 

Evidence shows that people with more access to green environments, such as parks, tend to walk more than those with limited access. Health and fitness facilities offer group walking programs and access to places for walking. Park and recreation planners can influence community health by increasing access to parks and helping people find ways to walk indoors in inclement weather.

Parks and recreational and fitness facilities can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk.

  • Locate schools, worksites, parks, recreational facilities, and other places that people regularly use within walkable distance of each other.

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.

  • Provide safe and convenient access for all users to community locations that support walking, such as walking trails, parks, recreational facilities, and college campuses.
  • Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that promote walking.
  • Offer walking programs that address barriers, including physical limitations and safety concerns.
  • Set up walking groups, buddy systems, and other forms of social support for walking that provide multiple opportunities to walk each week.

Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.

  • Provide signs and maps to help people find safe places to walk and provide information on accessibility for people with mobility or other limitations.

Education 

Schools 

America’s elementary, middle, and high schools have about 55 million students and 7.3 million teachers and staff members. Schools can provide their students and staff opportunities for physical activity and can promote safe routes for walking to school. They can also open facilities such as playgrounds and tracks for use by neighbors outside of school hours.

Schools can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk.

  • Locate schools, worksites, businesses, parks, recreational facilities, and other places that people regularly use within walkable distance of each other.

Promote programs and policies that make it easy for students to walk before, during, and after school.

  • Implement Safe Routes to School or similar walk-to-school programs.
  • Provide daily physical education for students in grades K-12 and daily recess for elementary students.
  • Encourage walking opportunities for students and staff as part of regular classroom activities.
  • Establish formal policies or agreements, such as shared-use agreements, to make school facilities available to community residents or to allow schools to use nearby community facilities, such as fields and parks.

Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walkability through their profession.

  • Provide training to administrators and classroom teachers on ways to incorporate walking throughout the school day.

Colleges and Universities 

More than 7,000 American colleges and universities reach about 21 million students and employ nearly 4 million staff members. Colleges and universities can promote walking by creating pedestrian-friendly campuses and adopting policies that encourage walking. Colleges can also educate future professionals on the importance of walking, not only in health fields but also in architecture, business, and other areas.

Colleges and universities can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk.

  • Locate schools, worksites, businesses, parks, recreational facilities, and other places that people regularly use within walkable distance of each other

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.

  • Provide safe and convenient access for all users to community locations that support walking, such as walking trails, parks, recreational facilities, and college campuses.
  • Set up walking groups, buddy systems, and other forms of social support for walking that provide multiple opportunities to walk each week.

Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walkability through their profession.

  • Integrate walking and walkability as part of the higher education curricula across majors to promote interdisciplinary training.
  • Offer continuing education opportunities that promote walking and walkability for relevant professionals.

Business and Industry

Worksites 

Almost 150 million American adults are in the workforce, and many spend a significant amount of their day at work. The worksite can offer employees access to opportunities and supports for physical activity, including walking, making it easier for them to integrate it into their daily lives. Employers have the ability to improve the health of employees and their organization’s bottom line.

Worksites can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Promote worksite programs and policies that support walking and walkability.

  • Provide access to facilities, locations, and programs to support walking.
  • Use policies and incentives to encourage walking, such as flextime, paid activity breaks, or discounts for off-site exercise facilities.
  • Establish walking clubs or competitions that encourage and motivate employees to meet individual or team goals.
  • Engage in community planning efforts to make the communities around worksites more walkable.

Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.

  • Provide employees with tailored messages about walking in and around the worksite.
  • Provide signs and maps to help people find safe places to walk and provide information on accessibility for people with mobility or other limitations.

Volunteer and Nonprofit Organizations 

Nonprofit organizations interact with all facets of American life. That means that nonprofits have many ways to promote walking. Some have facilities that can be used for walking. Others can reach particular groups, such as minority populations or people with mobility limitations, or can work toward changes to the design of communities and streets. Because of their reach and the trusted relationships they have with their members, nonprofit organizations are in an excellent position to share messages about walking.

Volunteer and nonprofit organizations can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.

  • Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that promote walking.
  • Offer evidence-based walking programs that are free or low cost.
  • Set up walking groups, buddy systems, and other forms of social support for walking that provide multiple opportunities to walk each week.

Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.

  • Educate pedestrians about how to walk safely and the risks of alcohol-impaired and distracted walking.

Develop effective and consistent messages and engage the media to promote walking and walkability.

  • Provide public education and awareness campaigns to promote walking and walkability and link these campaigns with other activities meant to increase walking.

Health Care 

In 2012, almost 80% of U.S. adults reported that they had visited a health care professional sometime in the past 12 months. Those encounters give health care professionals an opportunity to promote physical activity and walking as one way to be active. Most patients can walk, and walking can be easily modified to a person’s abilities. Health care professionals can help patients overcome barriers to physical activity and put them on the path to better health.

Health care professionals can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.

  • Establish physical activity as a key health indicator tracked by health care professionals.
  • Have health care professionals offer physical activity counseling to their patients, especially those at high risk.

Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walkability through their profession.

  • Include information on physical activity and behavioral counseling in the training, continuing education, and accreditation process for all health care professionals.
  • Offer continuing education opportunities that promote walking and walkability for relevant professionals.

Media 

Television, radio, outdoor advertising, and other media all reach hundreds of millions of Americans daily. Media campaigns can remind people of the benefits of walking for, about choices for transportation, and about how walking can make a community safer. Media outlets have the power to reach people and improve the health of their communities.

Media outlets can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.

  • Promote the availability of safe, convenient, and well-designed community locations and programs that promote walking.

Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.

  • Educate pedestrians about how to walk safely and the risks of alcohol-impaired and distracted walking.

Develop effective and consistent messages and engage the media to promote walking and walkability.

  • Provide public education and awareness campaigns to promote walking and walkability and link these campaigns with other activities meant to increase walking.
  • Tailor campaign messages and activities to resonate with specific audiences.
  • Use relevant communication channels (mainstream and social media and emerging technologies, such as walking apps and video games) to market walking and walkability.

Public Health 

Public health focuses on changing the health of groups of people. Public health professionals can identify evidence-based strategies for promoting and sustaining physical activity, including walking. They have the skills to bring together partners from other sectors to design and implement interventions that promote walking and improve the health of their communities.

Public health professionals can promote walking and walkable communities through the following strategies:

  • Promote community programs and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk.
  • Educate people about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.
  • Develop effective and consistent messages and engage the media to promote walking and walkability.
  • Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walkability through their profession.
  • Improve the quality and consistency of surveillance data collected about walking and walkability.
  • Address research gaps to promote walking and walkability.
  • Evaluate community interventions to promote walking and walkability.