Walkability is one of the most important features of living at Linmere. The Linmere vision uses walkable neighbourhoods as a means of connecting homes, streets, amenities, and green spaces. We explore the simple steps to creating walkable places, building healthier and sustainable lives.
“Walk towards the good life, and one day you will arrive.”
Atticus (Ancient Roman Senator)
Whisper it quietly… we’re starting to fall out of love with constantly driving our cars everywhere. After decades of living inseparably, we’re finally dreaming of a life where driving goes back to something we enjoy when we want to, not suffer when we need to.
Cars, however, are shrugging their shoulders. The lightning-speed leap into EVs will secure their place for the rest of the century at least. And where are we going to go? We’ve designed modern life around the car. We live our lives in out-of-town venues and rural destinations, from shopping to socialising and exercise, driving less is going to require a whole lot more.
Time for a short walk
Around 50% of car journeys in the UK are less than 2 miles. At that distance, we get a level playing field. 2 miles on a bike is easy and a keen cyclist wouldn’t even notice it. Public transport? Time to think on our feet. It’s time we started walking again.
The good news is… we are. The not so good news is… we aren’t everywhere. We’re walking more where walking works. Big cities like Edinburgh, Manchester and London. With more connected walking routes, the car is losing its grip on the short journey.
Across all adults, in London 87% of residents walking at least once a week. In Pendle, a large Lancashire borough of 95,000 residents, just 55% for one walk a week. Almost half of all adults not taking one walking journey a week. Too many places in which we live don’t offer the conditions to make walking viable. In short, they lack ‘walkability’.
What is Walkability?
“The extent to which the built environment supports and encourages walking by providing for pedestrian comfort and safety, connecting people with varied destinations within a reasonable time and effort, offering visual interest in journeys throughout the neighbourhood.”
Michael Southworth – Professor of city & regional planning University of California
Using Southworth’s definition, it offers 5 key steps to walkable design: Make it connect, keep users safe, make it easy, offer variation, and make it usable.
01 Make it connect
Walkable places create easy connections between homes and amenities, following the shortest routes, with the least effort to complete. They offer wide pavements and pathways, with some placemakers using specifically coloured surfaces to mark out walking routes. They don’t use cul-de-sacs or complicated waypoints, forcing residents to solve a maze of twists, turns and junctions.
02 Keep users safe
The walkable journey makes users feel safe from start to finish and that their journey is the priority. Wide, well-lit pavements with plenty of space to pass other pedestrians and pause their journey safely. Where the walking journey meets motorised routes, the walking route takes priority, with elevated and distinctly coloured crossings, keeping walking routes flowing.
Pedestrian crossings are elevated and clearly marked. Walking routes use specific-coloured surfaces to maintain a sense of journey.
03 Make it easy
If the journey feels short, no matter how old you are, it’s more likely to get done. Walkability uses the principle of ‘active travel’ links, connecting walking journeys in no more than 5–10 minutes. ‘Active travel’ creates walking connections for travel, not just leisure. Placemakers, therefore, design walking routes that are more direct, with shallower gradients, to enable users needing to get from A to B easily, not just the experience of walking.
04 Offer variation
Good placemaking integrates variety, and stimulus throughout the walking journey, so residents connect more with their surroundings. Journey stages are kept shorter, with distinct landmarks such as buildings and public art, to mark waypoints. Pavement and road surfaces are varied to build a sense of progress and change. This is met with frequent places of rest, enabling every generation to take part and observe the social bustle around them.
Placemakers using more innovative and seamless design to provide resting stages along walking journeys.
05 Make it usable (usability design)
From cars to software and technology, usability asks the question: ‘how can we make this easier for everyone to use?’ The principle applies to good placemaking in finding the easiest route from A to B without having to use C to get to B. Walkability asks placemakers to prioritise the easiest route over what the design is asking for. For example, if there’s a green space, create a direct pathway across it and avoid forcing users to take the longer route for the sake of design.
To help express that idea, the software industry uses placemaking as a metaphor to explain usability.
The 20 Minute Neighbourhood
The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) recently published “The 20 Minute Neighbourhood” plan. The guide assists placemakers in creating more liveable local areas, and amongst other things, places high importance on walking and cycling. They list several benefits, including increased investment by local businesses, lower crime rates, increased enterprise, improved physical and mental health, all bound by greater social cohesion. In short, you create neighbourhoods people want to live in and pay a premium for.
Walkability isn’t a crusade against the car, as cars still have their place. It’s a smarter and positive ambition to create sustainable connections, where people are healthier and happier to live. The car lives on but doesn’t dominate our lives or the places we live. Places like Linmere.
UK Govt: Walking in the UK transport system: how and why is it changing?
BMC Public Health: Rethinking walkability and developing a conceptual definition of active living environments to guide research and practice
Fast Company: Mapping The Link Between Obesity And Car Driving
Living Streets: Over a fifth of people in the UK never walk or exercise
The Town and Country Planning Association: The 20 minute Neighbourhood
Linmere is designed to be a place for communities that embraces the natural environment, and where all generations can enjoy a great quality of life. This exciting new collection of leafy and walkable neighbourhoods, situated north of Houghton Regis Bedfordshire, located close to M1 Junction 11a. Nestled into verdant surroundings, its first homes completed and inhabited in 2021. The Land Trust will maintain and preserve these spaces on behalf of Houghton Regis Management Company.