The talk that changed everything

There I was on a Friday morning in October in a bunker-style meeting room in Kalamazoo. Jeff Speck tore the band-aid off my inhibitions as an advocate for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders with the talk he gave to the Michigan Association of Planners in 2013. The day before I heard Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City describe how he put his citizens on a diet and planned massive changes to prioritize walking and biking. But when I heard the clarity and honesty of the argument behind “Walkable City” it rocked my world.

Pre-Speck, I gave lip service to the idea of walking. I rode my bike to work and in theory I knew that our environment would benefit if we could take more cars off the road. I had a hunch that walking was a good idea. But I wasn’t quite sure why.

After his talk I realized that walking is a permanent, irreversible, and fundamental aspect of the human condition. The dimensions of walking should be the basic units of the city and an indicator of a successful street and neighborhood. The measure of a place’s walkability is a common denominator for what makes a great urban place.

This blog will explore the implications of this realization. I will also examine how walkability impacts other critical aspects of functional, vibrant, and successful urban places.