Denver Shakes a Leg

A coalition of urbanists, doctors, and pedestrian enthusiasts are working to improve awareness, participation, and amenities for Denver's walkers. And in the least obese state in the country, their efforts are gaining an audience.
February 14, 2012, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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According to Walk Denver co-founder Gosia King, "Ample sidewalks are crucial...but they provide only the means of access to an environment that must then reward walkers through attractions like shopping and entertainment that cater specifically to foot traffic."

Kirk Johnson writes that King is leading an effort to make Denver a "Walk Friendly Community, a rating list for pedestrian-friendly cities that bestows Seattle its top "platinum-level" rating.

More walkers, whether strolling or striding, in turn reinforce an old idea that Kung said many cities have forgotten: better public health and improved economic life go together.

She knows the former trait well. Upon moving to the U.S. from Poland in 1997, she "got her driver's license and gained 20 pounds".

History plays a key role in pedestrian-friendly cities, as dense Manhattan illustrates. Denver, "founded in the 1850's Colorado gold rush", laid down a street grid to accommodate the streetcar system, creating a dense ring of nearby 'streetcar suburbs'" that could facilitate both walking and transit.

"Denver city planners had already set a goal of having 15 percent of residents get to their jobs on bike or on foot by 2020, up from about 6 percent according to the most recent census survey."

However, it is unlikely that federal pedestrian funds will be forthcoming as both House and Senate transportation reauthorization bills reduced or stripped that provision.

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Published on Tuesday, February 14, 2012 in The New York Times
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