By Health by Design
WalkWays is working to “move Indy forward” as a city that’s accessible to pedestrians and those who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
For people in other cities, this might look like an easy job. After all, Indianapolis has earned its share of attention for walkability and access, with options like the 10-mile Monon Trail and eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and a walkable downtown with hotels, sports venues, shopping, restaurants and entertainment destinations within short distances of each other.
But Indy still has challenges. For one, the city is sprawling at 400 square miles, and although there has been focus in recent years on improving and installing sidewalks and pedestrian paths, some areas continue to be unwalkable. In some cases, even walkable neighborhoods are isolated from other neighborhoods or from destinations.
Then there’s another problem: a population that loves its cars. A lot of Indy residents insist on driving from Point A to Point B, even if it’s a short distance and they do have sidewalks or paths available.
That’s what WalkWays wants to overcome. An initiative formed by Health by Design in collaboration with the Indiana Chapter of the American Planning Association, the City of Indianapolis, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana Public Health Association, WalkWays is working on a two-pronged approach.
First of all, the WalkWays team is working with Nelson\Nygard Consulting Associates to develop a pedestrian master plan. The plan, created with support from community partners Local Initiative Support Corporation, Engaging Solutions and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, will help to prioritize areas of need, offer solutions and increase overall walkability.
Along with that effort is a comprehensive communications program aimed at promoting walking and rolling throughout the city. A highly engaged coalition has been hard at work on the challenge, identifying audiences that need to be addressed and brainstorming ways to get people to think about getting out of their cars when they can.
The coalition of communicators is looking forward to hitting the streets (or sidewalks) with a campaign that both points out barriers to accessibility and promotes the notion of getting around without a car. They intend to put their message in front of pedestrians and drivers as often as possible, and to look for fun ways — such as steps challenges and group walks — to create a high level of community engagement. By the end of the year, it’s expected that “WalkWays” will be an identified brand that puts active transportation as a top choice in everyone’s mind.
To get things started, the project has launched a website, www.indywalkways.org, which offers information about the project and — showing how much the project relies on community involvement — an opportunity to provide input about priorities. More than 1500 people completed the initial survey, which was a positive start! There will be additional public engagement and input opportunities beginning in mid-February.
The Health by Design team is confident that it won’t take long for more Indy residents to choose walking.
Images from Health by Design.
Learn more about the work under way in Indianapolis by viewing Kim Irwin, the Executive Director of Health by Design, discuss walkability and by watching Health by Design’s mini-webinar on the Peer Learning Network!