The following article comes from the team at America Walks, a friend of Strong Towns and national nonprofit that is leading the way in making America a great place to walk. Listen to our interview with America Walks' Executive Director, Kate Kraft, on the Strong Towns Podcast.
Walkability is at the core of creating places where people of all ages can live and thrive. It’s the model upon which our cities were built for millennia, with goods and services in easy and safe reach of where we live and our public rights of way serving to move people on foot, horseback, and later on bicycle. Our streets have, for centuries, also been places that connect people of all ages with opportunities for chance encounters and human exchange.
Hard as it may be to believe, only for the last 100 years or so have we diverged from this essential model of how society functions, to our detriment. With the exception of several important outliers, American cities today are built around the thing that once promised ultimate freedom and mobility, but that wound up decimating so many of our longstanding assumptions about cities’ essential role— the automobile. This change has helped to give rise to a national situation marked by isolation, poor health, and limited opportunity for those who can't or who don't want to drive, as well as negative financial impacts on our communities.
Increasingly, demand for a paradigm shift that favors walkable places is being buoyed by two of the nation’s most influential generational groups that happen to fall on opposite ends of the age spectrum. Millennials and baby boomers have tended, more than any other generations, to express a preference for walkable places - places in which cars are optional. These places are communities where opportunities for school, work, social interaction and much more are available by walking in safe, accessible, and, perhaps most importantly, enjoyable spaces. Thanks to their numbers, they are helping to drive real change in a country in which such places are in too short supply.
It’s a topic that will receive serious attention at our upcoming National Walking Summit, taking place this year September 13-15 in St. Paul, Minnesota, a place making great strides to advance liveability across the age spectrum through walkability. One session that will explore the intersections of age, opportunity and walkable places will take place on the second day of the Summit. Livable Communities for All Ages will bring together representatives working with younger and older constituencies for a panel that will share diverse experiences and lessons from people working in the field, from a walking group headed by a millennial aimed at empowering the 50+ population to advance community change, to a researcher studying walkability around senior housing. This session is just one that will look at how creating infrastructure that supports a car-free lifestyle enables us to live in communities where people of all ages thrive. Learn more about this panel and other exciting programs taking place as part of the Summit here.