California Walks, our partners and member organizations, have been working to describe the world of walking and pedestrian safety. Together, we have come up with the following talking points and messaging strategies to make the case for healthy, safe, & walkable communities. The categories identified are by no means exhaustive of pedestrian safety and walkability. They are a starting point from which we, as pedestrian advocates, can build, moving forward in creating a safer, healthier, and more accessible pedestrian-friendly California.*The contents of this page draw from our publication: Messaging for Walkability: A Guide for Pedestrian Advocates

Defining walking, pedestrians and walkability

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Walking is a fundamental mode of transportation and almost everyone walks every day. Walking itself is transportation,and is also used with every other form of transportation (from car driving to bicycling to riding public transit). For example: transit riders walk at either end of the public transit trip, and automobile drivers have to walk from a starting point (home) to the car and then from parking to the door of a destination. Most of these connecting trips are one block to a half mile long. While some people walk more than others, it is important that our community environments are safe, accessible, and encourage walking for everyone. When we do so, more people have an option to walk more often, improving their own physical health as well as the surrounding natural environment (fewer greenhouse gas emissions).

Pedestrians include both those who walk on two feet and those persons who walk or roll using an assistive device, whether it be a baby in a stroller, a youth on skates, or a person using a cane, crutches or wheelchair. Walkability indicates the number of people who can or will be physically active. It is often said that a pedestrian environment walkable for an older adult or someone with a stroller/small child is an evironment is walkable for nearly everyone. This is called universal access.

Walkability refers to how safe, friendly and accessible walking is in a neighborhood or community. Many factors influence walkability. Common factors elements of the built environment include continuous, level sidewalks and pathways; safe, accessible crossings; pedestrian-friendly lighting; suitable vehicle speed; limited number of lanes and street width. Other factors that influence walking and walkability include real and perceived safety from crime, gang activity and aggressive dogs, graffiti and trash, maintenance of trees and greenery, safe access to desired destinations (park, school, grocery, library, post office, etc.), public amenities like benches, drinking fountains, public art, restrooms, and trash cans, among many others.[/EXPAND]

Messages & Talking Points

Walking as a Form of Transportation
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  • Walking is the most universal form of transportation.
  • Walking is  essential to every other mode of transportation. Even when I drive, bike or take public transit, walking is a connecting trip to get me where I need to go.
  • Walking, riding transit, bicycling, or carpooling—just one day a week for a year—can typically save about 1,200 miles on vehicles and about $567 in total driving costs.
  • After housing, transportation-is the second largest expense for the average American household—exceeding food, education, recreation, and healthcare—according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Walking is free.
  • Walking gets me where I need to go.

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Walking for Personal Health

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  •  Walking is a form of physical activity that is good for everyone’s physical and mental health.
  • It is recommended that people engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and walking can be that exercise!
  • Walking is “a foundational first step in encouraging the healthy and active lifestyle that is critical to combating obesity and its life threatening consequences.”
  • Brisk walking reduces body fat, blood pressure, and the risk of bone fracture, while it increases high-density lipoproteins.
  • Walking at least 2 hours per week is associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality.
  • 43% of people with safe places within a 10-minute walk from their homes met their recommended levels of physical activity, whereas only 27% of people without walkable neighborhoods and nearby destinations met recommended levels of physical activity.
  • People who travel by transit get their recommended physical activity since they walk or bike to and from the transit stop or station.
  • “Healthy minds and healthy hearts start with a neighborhood walk.”

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Walking & the Environment

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  • Walking reduces our carbon footprint. For every mile we walk, rather than drive, we save 1 lb. of carbon.
  • Walking is good for the environment, because unlike other forms of transportation, walking does not contribute to air pollution.
  • 28% of all trips are one mile or less, a distance that can be covered on foot. Yet 60% of trips under one mile are currently made by car. 50% of all trips are three miles or less.
  • “Starting and driving a vehicle the first few minutes results in higher emissions because the emissions control equipment has not yet reached its optimal operating temperature.”
  • More air pollution is reduced by walking or bicycling on short trips because emissions are highest when a vehicle is started “cold.” For instance, eliminating 5 separate one-mile vehicle trips reduces about the same amount of ozone-related pollution as eliminating one 15-mile trip.
  • In California, the transportation sector contributed 38 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and the majority of that is from on-road vehicles, such as private automobiles and light duty trucks ( 2004).
  • Transportation accounts for more than 28% of our country’s energy consumption and more than 25% of its air pollution.
  • If Americans substituted walking for driving the distance recommended for daily exercise (3-5 miles, depending on walking speed), the United States would consume 35-38% less oil.

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Walking & Public Transit

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  • Walking is an essential element in using public transit.
  • To make public transportation accessible, we need safe walking routes to transit.
  • “A quality transit system encourages walking and creates opportunities for riders to exceed the CDC’s recommended guidelines by building in extra activity into their daily commute.”
  • In Houston, less than 10% of disabled and elderly citizens use public transportation, even though 50% of them live within two blocks of a bus stop, because 60% of them do not have sidewalks between their homes and the bus stop.
  • “Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these non-motorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance.”
  • 90% of transit riders get to the stop by walking.
  • I use transit more when I can safely walk to and from transit on both ends of my trip.

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Walking in Rural Communities

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  • Rural areas present unique challenges to walking.
  • Longer distances, narrower roads with no places to walk raise unique challenges. We need unique strategies for pedestrian safety in rural communities.
  • Walking and pedestrian safety is as much, if not more important in rural communities.
  • Risk of fatalities is high due to high speeds, no paved shoulders or sidewalks , and no crossings.
  • Walking provides transportation independence in rural communities.
  • Safe pedestrian spaces can be identified in rural areas where sidewalks may not be realistic. Marked, paved shoulders work as do signed, marked crossings at destinations (schools, school/transit stops, stores, etc.)
  • In 2006, 56% of all traffic fatalities occurred in rural areas even though only 23% of the U.S. lived in rural areas.
  • Rural areas and small towns have higher concentrations of older and low-income people, less likely to own automobiles and therefore depend more on walking and public transportation to get anywhere.
  • Children who live in rural areas are 25% more likely than urban children to suffer from obesity and accompanying diseases. Making rural communities walkable encourages these youth to be more physically active.
  • Walking is a way for me to get to my job and for my kids to get to school, since we are without a car or public transit. We often walk on the shoulder of the road, and are very concerned about our safety from traffic.
  • Now that my son is old enough to walk home from school, I can go back to work full time.
  • I can’t drive anymore, but I like my independence. I walk and take the senior shuttle, so that I won’t have to ask my kids for so many rides.
  • Walking is an important form of exercise for me, and I want to be safe (from traffic) walking along my country roads.
  • When I walk alone or with my children, we walk on the road in front of our home. It is dangerous. Often there are no cars, but when they pass at the speed limit of 45 or over, we have to jump into the 2’ ditch which is the “shoulder.”

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Walking & Older Adults

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  • Walking is an essential form of transportation for many older adults, especially as driving is less practical.
  • Walking can be adapted to individual endurance and abilities.
  • Real and perceived crime impact pedestrian safety, especially for older adults.
  • When walking outside is not safe or uncomfortable, whether from crime, weather, or other issues, we older adults can walk indoors or in other identified safe and comfortable places.
  • Non-driving seniors who don’t walk and ride transit become more isolated, visiting friends and family less than others.
  • Non-driving seniors make 65% fewer trips to visit family or friends or to attend church; many of them report reticence to ask for a ride.
  • 54% of older Americans who live on streets unfriendly to walking, bicycling, or public transportation would do those things more often if the streets were better suited to them.
  • More than half of older Americans who do not drive choose to stay at home because they cannot otherwise get where they want to go safely or reliably.
  • Older adults in Alameda County with high levels of physical activity (including walking) were associated with low prevalence of baseline depression.
  • Research shows that doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities each week along with moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, helps reduce your risk of falling.
  • Walking gives me independence.
  • Walking gets me where I need to go.
  • Walking is great for me because it is free!
  • I can’t drive anymore, but I like my independence. I walk and take the senior shuttle, so that I won’t have to ask my kids for so many rides.

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Walking & Persons with Disabilities

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  •  Universal design and complete streets improves access to everyone.
  • The ability to use sidewalks and street crossings is critical for persons with disabilities, especially for those who are unable to drive frequently.
  • Walking mobility can easily be adapted to individual endurance and abilities.
  • Safe routes to schools can be identified and/or created for children with physical limitations or other disabilities.
  • Many older adults also have limited mobility. The growing older adult population vastly increases the need for safe and accessible pedestrian spaces.
  • Implementing the American with Disabilities Act (ADA and PROWAAG) to create accessible pedestrian spaces benefits all users (eg. strollers, toddlers, carts, deliveries, etc.).
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Americans is physically or sensorily disabled in some way.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) sets minimum standards to ensure accessibility for all.
  • “Accessible routes shall consist of one or more of the following components: walking surfaces with a running slope not steeper than 1:20, doorways, ramps, curb ramps excluding the flared sides, elevators, and platform lifts.”
  • “Independent travel with access to public and private transportation, places of business and government services begins with a pedestrian-friendly environment that accommodates the unique abilities of all citizens.”
  • Having accessible paths and walkways with safe crossings enables me to move throughout my neighborhood and community.
  • Walking and rolling give me independence.
  • Walking gets me where I need to go.

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Walking & Children

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  •  Walking is an active form of transportation for children, encouraging healthy lifestyles. We must make it safe for our children to walk to school, home, parks and other destinations.
  • Walking helps kids become responsible, by learning about rules of the road, independence, safety, and other neighborhood issues building good judgment skills in children and youth.
  • Walking is a lifelong activity that begins when we are toddlers.
  • Walking creates independence.
  • Walking helps kids be responsible.
  • Walking helps kids meet friends andneighbors,making social connections.
  • More children do not walk to school because of dangers from traffic than from avoidance of strangers.
  • Thirty years ago, 60% of children living within a 2-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15%. Roughly 25% commute by school bus, and well over half are driven to or from school in vehicles. And back then, 5% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese. Today, that number has climbed to 20%. These statistics point to a rise in preventable childhood diseases, worsening air quality and congestion around schools, and missed opportunities for children to grow into self-reliant, independent adults.
  • Children are more likely to walk to school when they can use sidewalks or footpaths, when they can safely cross the streets, and when their community creates school zones with enforced, reduced speeds.
  • In Illinois, 15% of students live within 1.5 miles of school but take the school bus because it is too dangerous to walk from home.
  • 20% or more of morning traffic is the child-school commute, most of it less than 2 miles in length.
  • “Walking helps me be responsible and aware of my surroundings.”
  • “Walking is a great form of physical activity and gets my mind going in the morning”
  • “I walk with my parents and friends me to school and afterschool programs”

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Walking &Youth

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  • Walking is a primary mode of transportation for youth and we want our youth to have safe streets for walking.
  • Youth and adults have the responsibility to promote safety in our communities to make it safe to walk.
  • We can take a stand in our communities by walking. The act of walking itself helps create a safe and healthy environment where people want to walk and play.
  • Engaging in social communication and creating social capital occurs even while walking alone especially compared to driving alone.
  • Car driver licensing and car purchasing as rights of passage is “old school.”. Cars are expensive. I can wait to learn to drive but be independent now when I walk, bike and travel by transit.
  • Walking is free.
  • I am embarrassed to own a car. Walking and biking is cool.
  • Walking gets me where I need to go.
  • I am too young to drive and afford a car, so walking is a perfect way for me to get around because it is free!
  • Walking gives me independence.

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Walking Connects us to People and Places

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  • Walking is a form of engagement with our physical and built environments and helps us to be more aware and connect with our surroundings.
  • Walking provides opportunities for social interactions with friends, family, neighbors and more.
  • Neighborhoods with lots of people walking have high social cohesion.
  • Walking connects us to people and the environment; we become more aware of how our neighborhoods are changing.
  • “Comparisons between the more walkable and less walkable neighborhoods show that levels of social capital are higher in more walkable neighborhoods…Social capital is a measure of an individual’s or group’s networks, personal connections, and involvement. Like economic and human capital, social capital is considered to have important values to both individuals and communities.”
  • Walking around and exploring your neighborhood helps people to understand how our neighborhoods work and are designed. Engaging with our environment and neighborhoods encourages residents to take ownership of our spaces.
  • “Studies in the US and Europe have found that walk friendly neighborhoods are associated with greater levels of social interaction, sense of community , social capital and place attachment.”
  • “Breath in the atmosphere of your neighborhood”
  • “Invite a neighbor, enjoy your neighborhood.”
  • “I walk so I can slow down and see the world.”
  • “My kids and I walk to explore our neighborhood.”
  • “Walking expands my world.”
  • “People recognize me because I walk in the neighborhood.”
  • “Invite a friend to walk together.”
  • “I love meeting my neighbors when I am out walking.”
  • “I walk in a group because it is safer and more fun to walk with others.”

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Walking & Complete Streets

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  • Adoption and implementation of Complete Streets policies will integrate pedestrians, bikes and transit into all travel and make streets safer.
  • Streets can and should be built for people, not just for cars.
  • Streets can and should be accessible for all users of all abilities and ages.
  • Streets can accommodate multiple forms of transportation (walking, biking, transit, car, etc.).
  • The power of the Complete Streets movement is that it fundamentally redefines what a street is intended to do, what goals a transportation agency is going to meet, and how the community will spend its transportation money. It breaks down the traditional separation of highways, transit and biking/walking and instead focuses on the desired outcome of a transportation system that supports safe use of the roadway for everyone, however they are traveling.
  • Complete streets make economic sense, improve safety, encourage more walking, transit travel and biking, ease transportation woes, help children, are good for air quality and make fiscal sense.
  • “Complete Streets planning presents an opportunity to increase the safety and availability of older adults’ travel options.”
  • Streets that are built for pedestrians, bikes, transit and cars make me feel good because everyone is included.
  • Completing our downtown streets has added livelihood and economic vitality to our neighborhood and city.
  • I like walking down a street that makes it easy for me to walk or bike and shop.
  • As more of us age, fewer of us will be forced to use paratransit and door-to-shuttles when complete streets allow us to safely walk to and from the transit stop.

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Walking & Pedestrian Safety

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  • Walking should be safe, healthy, and accessible of people of all ages and abilities.
  • I have the right to be safe when using any form of transportation.
  • Pedestrian investments should reflect both the mode share and safety need and be made proportionate to the both.
  • Walking is one of the most dangerous forms of transportation, in large part because our society is spending almost no money on walking safety.
  • Safety from neighborhood factors such as crime, dogs, bullies are just as important, if not more important than traffic safety concerns when people consider whether walking for transportation or health.
  • The more we walk the more people walk, and the safer it becomes.
  • In 2008, California pedestrian collision fatalities were 58% more than the national average.
  • In 2009, 21% of the total traffic fatalities were pedestrians, and 18% of the total severe injuries were pedestrians.
  • When comparing all traffic collisions to all pedestrian collisions in California (2009), pedestrian collisions are 150% more likely to result in death.
  • Each day in California, from 2000 -2009, there was an average of 42 collisions involving pedestrians, 2 pedestrian fatalities, and 5.4 severe injuries.
  • “There is a documented relationship between vehicle speeds and pedestrian crash severity. About 5 percent of pedestrians are likely to be killed when struck at 20 mph, about 40 percent of pedestrians are likely to be killed when struck at 30 mph, about 80 percent of pedestrians are likely to be killed when struck at 40 mph, and nearly all are likely to be killed when struck at 50 mph or more.”
  • Improving street design can make streets safer for all users, especially pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.
  • I would walk more but I am afraid of fast cars and driving wide streets.
  • Sometimes I walk in a group with my friends because of crime in my neighborhood. Walking in a group makes me feel safer. This way I can get my daily exercise.

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Walking Investments Saves Money in the Long Run

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  • Planning for pedestrian safety in the first place saves money by preventing the need for costly road and sidewalk amendments and upgrades (such as curb ramps).
  • Streets that are designed well and are safe for pedestrians can prevent injuries and fatalities that are costly to society.
  • Creating walkable spaces with destinations promotes economic vitality.
  • In a San Francisco study, the average medical costs for treating pedestrian crash victims during 2004-2008 were $47,303-$77,679 per patient for admitted patients and $3,798-$6,405 for non-admitted patients. The highest cost for an individual patient was $1.9 million. The highest cost directly billed to an uninsured patient during this period was $505,952.
  • The total monetary cost to society of a single traffic fatality is $3.36 million in Year 2000 dollars.
  • Over the width of one traffic lane, walking and bicycling can move five to ten times more people than driving.
  • For every one million dollars invested in pedestrian-only infrastructure projects, an average of ten jobs are created.
  • Creating accessible pedestrian spaces in the first place can reduce the risk of future and costly legal actions such as the Caltrans ADA settlement stipulating that Caltrans Spend $1.1 billion over a 30 year period (starting in 2010) to remove access barriers along existing pedestrian facilities.
  • Walking is cheaper than paying $4 a gallon for gas.
  • I want our streets to be safe for walking.
  • Walking improves my health, thus reducing my individual medical costs.

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Walking is for Everyone

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  • Everyone walks as part of every transportation trip.
  • Walking is an essential component to every other mode of transportation.
  • “Everybody walks, let’s all watch out for each other”
  • Walking gives me lots of ideas because my walking time is my thinking time.
  • Even though sometimes I drive, take public transit, and bike walking is connecting piece to get me where I need to go.

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Walking to Nearby Destinations

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  • Having places to walk to (nearby destinations) is essential when encouraging people to walk more as a form of healthy transportation.
  • Creating destinations within walkable distances is an economic revitalization tool.
  • Walkable communities have higher property value and contribute to economic vitality.
  • Walking improves property value and neighborhood values.
  • The more we walk the more people walk, and the safer it becomes.
  • Prior planning efforts and research have stated that people are willing to walk about a half mile, or 10 minutes (give or take depending on personal and environmental factors) to transit and other destinations. New research is suggesting that people are actually willing to walk longer/farther as social norms change and destinations become better connected.
  • 28% of all trips are one mile or less, a distance that can be covered on foot. Yet 60% of trips under one mile currently are traversed by car. 50% of all trips are three miles or less.
  • Proximity link between jobs and housing.
  • More destinations the more people, and more people going to more places.
  • Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of any address. “One point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property.”
  • I choose to live in a walkable communities mixed with grocery stores, restaurants, community centers and more, because is important to me to have amenities nearby.
  • I would like to see more communities become more walkable and safer for pedestrians, but we have to be careful to invest in communities and not displace the existing residents.

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Safety Messaging for Pedestrians

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  • Pedestrians need to be responsible and safe road users.
  • Pedestrians can take charge of personal safety by staying alert and aware of surroundings.
  • Look left, right, and left again.
  • Our roads are dangerous places for pedestrians, so I do my part by always making sure drivers see me and never stepping out when there is oncoming traffic.
  • I wear bright colors and reflective clothing when I walk at night to ensure that I am visible to drivers.

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Safety Messaging for Drivers

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  • In California, pedestrians have the right of way. Cars must yield to pedestrians.
  • Pedestrians are equal road users.
  • I walk and drive. Being a walker helps me be a better driver because I understand what it is like to be a pedestrian.
  • I break for pedestrians.
  • By watching for and yielding to pedestrians, I teach other drivers to become more aware also.

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