Scoring the Sidewalks: Worcester Research Bureau Updates ‘Walkability’ Factor

Scoring the Sidewalks: Worcester Research Bureau Updates ‘Walkability’ Factor

WORCESTER—The proof is in the pedestrian, as illustrated by a Lincoln Street “walk audit” conducted earlier this year by organized by the Green Hill Neighborhood Association, supported by WalkBike Worcester, WalkBoston, the Worcester Division of Public Health, and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.

The bureau audits areas for their “walkability” factors. And in its latest brief, the bureau summarized some existing research on the subject of walkability, and used that data and analysis to come up with a scorecard that Worcester residents can use to find the most pedestrian-friendly of local roads.

“Walkability has numerous benefits across community health, environmental sustainability, and economic development,” said the bureau’s statement this week, “and is an ongoing focus of state and municipal governments, as well as neighborhood groups.”

How walkable a neighborhood is can be pretty hard to quantify, the bureau admits. 

“While people have good intuitions about whether their neighborhood lends itself well to casual strolls,” it said, “or how many destinations are easily reachable on foot, it can be harder to put those thoughts and feelings into a context that could inform public policy.” 

In 2016, “walkability” stepped into the conversation statewide when Massachusetts came up with its Complete Streets funding program to push more of an understanding and development of local roadways. A “Complete Street” is “one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes—walking, biking, transit and motorized vehicles—for people of all ages and abilities.”

As of November 2019, 234 municipalities had registered with the program, of which 208 had approved policies, and 170 had approved prioritization plans.

The state approved Worcester’s Complete Streets policy in February of 2018, awarding a score of 97 out of 100 points. 

There are many organizations participating in ongoing walkability projects, including the City of Worcester Department of Public Health, Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester and  WalkBike Worcester

Want to take part? Submit your walkability scorecard here.


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