Creating places for people to walk means more than just special trails, though those might certainly be an important element of an overall plan. Creating an active community environment means taking a look at the broader scope of where there are – and aren’t – opportunities to walk in safety. It involves land use design, retrofitting the transportation infrastructure, funding, and much more.

Urban planners, sociologists and other professionals have conducted research about the factors influencing the walkability of a community. This research identified the key elements of a walkable community as:


1. You can get to places you often go

People can easily walk to where they need to go. Their workplaces, shops, schools, and restaurants are a short walk from home.

2. You are safe along the route

Safe walking routes pay attention to the things that make it easy for people to walk. They are well-lit and separated from the road. They have well-designed sidewalks that are clear of ice and snow, slower traffic, crossing signals and street signs that are easy to read.

3. You can walk from home

In a walkable community, people live close to each other in different kinds of homes. Their neighbourhood includes a variety of businesses, schools, stores, and restaurants.

4. You can get from one place to the next

Sidewalks, trails, and pathways in the neighbourhood connect one area to another. They make it possible for people to get where they need to go.

5. You enjoy what you see

A walkable neighbourhood is attractive, so people want to explore it. Walkers can enjoy the landscaping and the different types of buildings. They can sit if they want to take a break. People can also walk any time: the route is well-lit at night, has shade on hot days and shelter in case of rain and snow.

6. Everyone can get from one place to the next

In a walkable community, people with wheelchairs and other mobility devices have the same access to all that our communities provide as people without these devices. Utility poles and newspaper boxes can obstruct the sidewalk and this can make travel difficult or impossible for people using mobility devices. These are often the same stumbling blocks that make walking unpleasant or unsafe for everyone.