Urban walkability is a chicken-and-egg problem. In many cities, municipalities and businesses don’t invest in relatively cheap promoters of pleasant walkability (better sidewalks, street furniture, pedestrian-oriented displays — nevermind things like zoning changes and parking reconfiguration that require political will) because there’s a perception that “nobody walks.” And people are disinclined to walk because there’s a perception that “walking is unpleasant.”
Which is why I’m always excited to see signage like this in American cities, in urban cores and near transit stations and so forth. (This photo courtesy of John Massengale.)
Actually, that’s London, which isn’t an American city, and of course they do it better than we do, but increasingly it’s showing up here, too. Like in this photo — you can see a large, easy-to-use city map on the oblique (left-facing) side of the kiosk at right, which are placed all around the central core of …
… Montreal. Doh! But I swear, Americans are catching up, at their typical slow-but-steady pace. And the quality is improving. WMATA just announced that they’re improving their walk maps in Metro stations. A sample (click map image to enlarge; download full map, 2.7 MB PDF):
That map’s too busy, but it’s a lot better than the current iteration. We need more of this — this sort of thing is part of the evidence people need that changing their longstanding behavior is a rational thing to consider.