What makes a walkable neighborhood?
Beyond sidewalks and trees, views of walkability may be influenced by the social and cultural aspects of the neighborhood. The Arizona Prevention Research Center is collaborating with community advocacy organization Living Streets Alliance and the College of Architecture, Planning, & Landscape Architecture to explore perceptions of walkability in Mexican American neighborhoods in Tucson, Arizona. Living Streets Alliance recruited residents in four distinct neighborhoods to participate in walking focus groups. Participants reflected not only on the physical attributes of their neighborhoods, but also on their historical, economic and cultural perspectives on walking there. Living Streets Alliance mapped out a walking route within each neighborhood with specific gathering places for discussion. On each leg of the route, the facilitators asked questions about what walkers saw and how they felt about it. In side discussions, neighbor participants pointed out concerns they had, such as overgrown shrubs and lack of maintenance and told childhood stories about walking adventures with siblings. At the preplanned stopping points, Living Streets Alliance asked questions such as:
How do you feel about walking in this part of the neighborhood? What would encourage you to walk more? What makes this a good place to walk?
Following this research activity, Living Streets Alliance continues to work with these neighborhoods to collaboratively encourage walkability. In one neighborhood they held a “Walk and Talk” Workshop in which participants prioritized infrastructure improvements, which Living Streets Alliance documented and shared with the City.