This October, Vital Communities is joining organizations across the country in celebrating “Walktober” – a time to celebrate how great it is to be able to get places on foot. Walkable neighborhoods, traffic calming, and smart growth that puts residents near businesses and services are just some of the ways we Americans can reclaim our streets for walkers. See other Walktober stories here.
Upper Valley-ites are an active bunch. A lack of pedestrian friendly roadways doesn’t stop us from getting out and running, walking, and cycling. Just check out the foot and bicycle traffic on Route 5 and Route 10!
How can we stay safe while walking? The number one pedestrian safety tip for drivers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is, “Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times.” That’s certainly appropriate for our rural region where walkers enjoy stretching their legs on the busiest throughways as well as the quietest back roads.
For walkers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following safety tips:
- Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
- If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
- Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and your judgment.
- Embrace walking as a healthy form of transportation – get up, get out and get moving.
However, this safety advice can only go so far when roads are not designed with pedestrians in mind. Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design Report highlights the ways in which we have designed our roads for fast car travel and not for the safety of both drivers and pedestrians. Their informative video highlights the ways in which design can be used to promote safer roadways for everyone.
If you are passionate about creating a safer, more walkable community, a great place to start is to participate in a “Walk Audit.” AARP offers a free walk audit package that includes educational materials, worksheets, and step-by-step instructions for conducting a walk audit and using the results to advocate for change.
Want to get involved further in advocating for walkable and bikeable communities? Check out:
- Hanover, NH Bike Walk Committee
- Lebanon, NH Pedestrian & Bicyclist Advisory Committee
- Rockingham, VT Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee
- Bradford, VT Bike/Ped Committee
- New London Bike Walk Coalition
Did we miss anyone on this list? Let us know!