“Toward a More Walkable Portsmouth”

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Even with the snow Portsmouth’s downtown is still walkable!

On January 22, SRPC Regional Planners Natasha Leuchanka and Liz Durfee attended the Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century event titled Toward a More Walkable Portsmouth, held at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, NH. Jeff Speck, city planner, urban designer, and author of Walkable City, Jeff Speck presented on how to use principles of walkability and Smart Growth to achieve a more walkable and sustainable Portsmouth.

Jeff covered a number of walkability topics, such as why it is beneficial and smart to be a walkable community, how to achieve walkability in a community, and how to apply walkability principles in Portsmouth to achieve sustainability goals.

So why be walkable? Jeff stated that “walkable places are thriving places”, suggesting that “to be successful, a place needs to be walkable”.  Walkable communities lead to economic, public health, and environmental benefits. From the high costs of transportation, to the inactivity levels in the current generation of American children, and to greenhouse gas emissions, Jeff provided a number of reasons for more walkable communities.

How do you make your city more walkable? Jeff stated that in the U.S., people have many reasons to own and drive their vehicles. As a result, he advised that “if you are going to get people to walk, then the walk has to be as good or better than the drive”.

What constitutes a ‘good’ walk? Jeff suggested that the following four simultaneous factors must be present for an individual to have a good walking experience, and to choose walking over driving:

  • A proper reason to walk (suggesting that diversity of land uses within close proximity of each other provides individuals with a reason to walk to their destinations)
  • A safe walk (incorporating not just the perceived crime-related safety, but also on-road crash related safety)
  • A comfortable walk (suggesting walking within a pleasant space and orientation)
  • An interesting walk (suggesting that people will not walk far if the walk is boring

While designing a city for walkability has a number of benefits for city residents and visitors, Jeff suggests that prior to making such a commitment, residents, planning staff, and stakeholders must first ask themselves the following question: “What kind of city do you want to be?”

Jeff wrapped up his presentation with a number of ideas and suggestions on how to make Portsmouth a more walkable community. His suggestions for Portsmouth ranged from converting two-way streets into one-way streets, using current road infrastructure for parking purposes, and creating buffered bike lanes.

In a room filled with planners, students, residents of Portsmouth and neighboring towns, community activists, and other members of the audience, Jeff’s talk sparked excitement, greater awareness, and even some concerns of the impact of urban design on the quality of life in Portsmouth.

View Jeff Speck’s “Toward a More Walkable Portsmouth” presentation on YouTube. (LINK BELOW)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaaNq9Y3xmI

View Jeff Speck’s “HOW: A Walkability Workshop” recording on YouTube. (LINK BELOW)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKm9D0G5h1w