As an Iowa Walking College Fellow and a Safe Routes to School Advocate, I am pleased to see the City move forward with the Sidewalk Maintenance and Improvement Project. Although I understand the financial challenges of the project, I believe sidewalks provide numerous health, economic, and safety benefits for the community. The availability of sidewalks is one of the most effective ways to encourage walking. According to studies from AARP, people who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks are almost 50 percent more likely to be active for at least 30 minutes a day. Furthermore, research has shown that walking 30 minutes a day can decrease your chances of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, and certain cancers. Walking has so many health benefits that in 2015 “Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities” was launched as a way to decrease the growing number of chronic diseases in the United States.
Walkable communities can also offer many financial benefits, such as a reduction in healthcare costs. Homes with sidewalks tend to sell for more money and in less time than similar homes without sidewalks. Businesses also benefit as residents are more likely to shop locally when there is increased connectivity between residential and business/commercial districts. The well-maintained sidewalks, accessibility, and inviting atmosphere of downtown helps Decorah to attract tourists. Applying these same characteristics to the rest of the City could help attract new residents as well.
There are many more health and economic benefits related to walkable communities. As a parent, the greatest benefit sidewalks provide is safety for pedestrians, especially children. I feel it is our duty to provide safe, easily accessible places for children in our community to bike and walk. Like several areas in Decorah, I live in a neighborhood that is not fully connected by sidewalks. I look forward to the completion of the City Sidewalk Project so my family will be able to walk to local parks, downtown, and friends’ homes without having to walk on the street.
*For more information on the benefits of walking/walkable communities as well as inspiration to “Walk More, Connect More,” please visit walkneiowa.org.
Guest blogger, April Bril, 2017 Iowa Walking College Fellow