Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2008

City named top walkable destination

Leaders take ranking in stride, acknowledge more to be done

March 19, 2008


Lawrence voted most walkable

Lawrence is the most walkable community in the state, according to Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Enlarge video

Maggie Mulhern, 17 months, jogs along next to her baby sitter, Michelle Walter, a Kansas University senior from Overland Park, as the two pass through South Park on a morning walk Tuesday. Lawrence was ranked the most walkable city in the state and the 38th most walkable city in the U.S. by Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Maggie Mulhern, 17 months, jogs along next to her baby sitter, Michelle Walter, a Kansas University senior from Overland Park, as the two pass through South Park on a morning walk Tuesday. Lawrence was ranked the most walkable city in the state and the 38th most walkable city in the U.S. by Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Top 10 in Kansas

Here's how Kansas cities ranked in the survey of most walkable cities:

1. Lawrence2. Manhattan3. Overland Park4. Shawnee5. Lenexa6. Olathe7. Topeka8. Kansas City9. Wichita10. Salina

It was a free and furry Tuesday morning adventure for 2-year-old Eoghan Greenwell who was walking along Massachusetts Street with his mother.

A fellow walker with a tiny, kid-friendly dog stopped to give the excited toddler a chance to pet its snout.

"Oh, so soft," Eoghan's mother, Alix Stephan, said as she petted the dog and the young boy bear hugged her leg.

Certainly not a life-changing event, but still a welcome diversion that wouldn't have been possible had Stephan and her son not been out for a stroll.

"Something like that would never happen in a car," Stephan said. "That's what I really love about walking. In some strange sort of way it does little things to bring a community together."

If that's the case, there's no better place in the state for such adventures than Lawrence, according to a new ranking of the most walkable cities in the country. Lawrence was deemed the most walkable city in the state and the 38th most walkable in the country in a ranking by Prevention magazine and the American Podiatric Medical Association.

City leaders generally were pleased with the ranking, saying that it showed efforts to make walkability a more top-of-mind issue were paying off.

"Our new development code, for example, requires sidewalks on both sides of the street for new developments," Mayor Sue Hack said. "I think that goes a long way to saying we want a safe place to walk."

But before you add that extra bounce to your step, keep the ranking in perspective. The magazine looked at several factors, but a major one it didn't was the condition of city sidewalks. The study also didn't look at how well sidewalks are cleared of snow.

City commissioners said they know both issues are a problem.

"I think this ranking is a sign that we're doing some things right, but I know we could do a lot better," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

Both Highberger and Hack said the city needs to have a discussion about whether to begin sharing in the costs to improve cracked and deteriorated sidewalks. City ordinances make it the responsibility of adjacent property owners to repair sidewalks. Both commissioners, though, made no promises about the city taking on the responsibility given the tight economy.

"But I think we do all understand that if we want to be walkable, it has to be safely walkable," Hack said.

The city scored highly in several areas in the magazine's ranking. A panel of walking experts - largely urban planners - rated Lawrence highly based on past experiences they had in the community. No other Kansas city was ranked as highly by the panel of experts.

Lawrence also was the top-ranked Kansas city in terms of having parks that are easily accessible to pedestrians. It ranked second in the state in percentage of residents who use mass transit and the number of schools that are near neighborhoods, and the second lowest number of cars per household. The city's downtown also was ranked as having the second most number of walkable destinations, trailing downtown Wichita.

Lawrence was the only Kansas community in the top 100. Wichita and Salina both were ranked among the 25 least walkable communities. Cambridge, Mass., was deemed the most walkable city of the 500 communities in the report.

Hack and Highberger said they thought Lawrence would become an even more walker-friendly community in the future. The city is in the process of passing a "Smart Code" that will give developers more options in how they build neighborhoods. An emphasis of the code is to encourage more use of residential and commercial developments.

"We may not go back to the era where there is a corner store for every neighborhood, but I think it will move us closer to that era," Highberger said.


ohjayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

I can attest to this ranking. When I was at KU, I did not have a car. So, I got to experience first-hand how good of a walking city Lawrence is. Heck, my roommate and I once walked from our apartment near 18th and Tennessee out to 31st and Iowa once to sign up for a chance at tickets to the Big 8 basketball tournament. How we would've gotten to KC if we had won, I'm not sure, but we entered.

kansasredlegs 10 years, 2 months ago

Did the survey include the number of times one has to cross City streets to reconnect to a sidewalk that will actually take you to where you want to go?

ohjayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

consumer - Yeah, I always wondered that myself. I lived in the Jayhawker Towers for a time too and there were a lot of people from there that rode the bus as well. I never understood it. I walked to class, I walked downtown, I walked to work on 23rd Street, and none of that hurt me a bit! (I sound like a grandpa saying I walked to school in 6' of snow uphill both ways.) However, I'll never forget when I visited KU before applying, they said on the tour that KU doesn't require a phys ed class because of the walk up the hill.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

Yet when citizens ask that the city become ever more walkable the powers that be do nothing.

The T is on the chopping block.

Walks remain in disrepair. No money to fix walks yet magically a half a million dollars appeared to do yet ANOTHER study on the $88 million sewage treatment plant? a facility that may not be necessary?

Lawrence does not need more neighborhoods because Lawrence does not care for the infrastructure in older neighborhoods.

The North Lawrence project will easily cost $42 -$60 million tax dollars for sewer lines,water lines bridges,culverts,reconstruction projects,flood control and elevating teepee road to prevent the airport from flooding. Why you ask? Because the flood plain will be filled in. Who pays for all of this NEW infrastructure? The taxpayers. Then what? Further increases to the cost of community services created by more: water and sewer lines streets and repairs houses public schools fire stations law enforcement manpower sidewalks snow removal bike trails and cross walks Traffic signals Traffic calming developers requesting more tax dollar assistance(new infrastructure) for their warehouses and retail strip malls. *In general increases the cost of community services to all taxpayers.

kansasredlegs 10 years, 2 months ago

"Smart Code", as opposed to "Dumb Code"? I'd take a big dose of boring "Common Sense" Code in this town.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 2 months ago

"traffic calming"? As in "dude, chill....."?

b_asinbeer 10 years, 2 months ago

offtotheright (Anonymous) says:

More like the pit of kansas

I say....

If you don't like it, move! Nobody's stopping you.

average 10 years, 2 months ago

Most walkable city in Kansas is pretty faint praise. Of course, any survey that ranks Overland Park high on the list has never actually tried to walk there (have fun crossing 9 lanes of Metcalf in 30 seconds!).

Of course, lots of Kansas towns are walkable. Typically, towns too small for a Wal-Mart but big enough for an ALCO (Beloit, Larned, Lyons, Girard, Garnett) are eminently walkable, but don't count for the survey, I guess.

Confrontation 10 years, 2 months ago

"It ranked second in the state in percentage of residents who use mass transit"

Interesting. Does this include the KU buses?

tyger_lily 10 years, 2 months ago

I disagree with this. If I can walk to where I am going, I always try to. Ever tried to cross Louisiana at 23rd? Even when you have the walk signal, people making right turns, gabbing on their cell phones, just about run you over because they don't even bother to look.

doc1 10 years, 2 months ago

And thats why the taxpayers fund a city bus service that services none. Obviously they would rather walk.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 2 months ago

Hey! I want in on the "when I went to school, I walked..." stories. I remember when I lived around 13th and Vermont, I decided to walk to Clinton Lake, what is now the marina area, and back. I made it back to 19th & Naismith and caught a ride the rest of the way home. I had a few blisters!~)

I used to regularly walk from the Pinkney neighborhood to work downtown, then up to school, then back to work, then up to school and then home. I put a lot of miles on those Redwing waffle-stompers in bad weather, my leather jacket and County Donegal hat...through rain, snow, sleet and black of night. The Stump Jumper came in handy, later...still does, poor old thing. You still need good boots and a mountain bike to negotiate the pitiful roads and walkways of most of this friendly town!~)

average 10 years, 2 months ago

Segregation of purpose leads to pedestrian inaccessibility.

There are neighborhoods right outside the parking lot of Free State High. But, you can't walk or bicycle easily from those neighborhoods to the school.

You can't easily walk to Best Buy/Home Depot from the north. Ousdahl comes twenty feet from a road that connects to Home Depot, but I suspect the neighborhood to the north prefers having a moat between them and the trailer park?

And, just as an idea, would anyone else use this pedestrian route? From Prairie Park, a pedestrian light (like the one on 11th?) across Haskell near 27th. Intersect the Haskell rail trail, then a path across the Haskell campus (along Kiowa street) to both South Junior High (where Prairie Park kids go to school) and the Park Hill neighborhood?

GretchenJP 10 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree with Lawrence being a walkable city, particularly downtown. Gimme a 60-degree overcast day, maybe even a sprinkle or two, a couple of hours to spare and I'm enjoying the day on Mass Street.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

Depending on where you live and what your destination is Lawrence can be walkable. Residential within a 2 mile radius of downtown is most walkable because that is walking distance to groceries,movie theatre,library,hardware stores,department stores,KU activities,night life, jobs,Lawrence High School,elementary schools,South Park activities,Farmers Market,good selection of dining out,shoe stores,used clothing stores,art displays,art center,bike shops yetttttt have some of the worst sidewalks Lawrence,Kansas.

It's the wheel chair folks,senior citizens and/or physically impaired members of the population that are truly neglected in the sidewalk situations to the point of being insensitive.

East Lawrence is loaded with rental properties which is one reason why CDBG funding could not be used for large lengths of sidewalk. Rentals are a commercial NOT owner occupied residential.

Losing the T will will be noticed by many many public school students and those 47% of users that have to depend on the T for employment.... those without the ability to afford a motorized vehicle to include some who are employed at East Hills Business Park.

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