10 March 2009

How to create a culture of walking...

"Communities have a right to up-to-date, good quality, accessible information on where they can walk and the quality of the experience. People should be given opportunities to celebrate and enjoy walking as part of their everyday social, cultural and political life".

The trails in Mission Viejo are great for leisure and recreation, but not everyone lives like this 'Super Mom', out blazing the Oso Creek Trail for a little exercise. For the rest of us, we need to be coaxed into exercise to the point that we don't even know we are exercising. By creating enhanced walking experiences from desirable place to desirable place, can be that coaxing element.

Currently, when walking around Mission Viejo, we are offered the streets as our main connection element. The 5' wide curb adjacent sidewalk, next to a tiny and poorly maintained landscape setback, adjacent to a sea of asphalt at our underwhelming retail centers is not exactly a enhanced walking experience. Nor is it comfortable to traverse across the bridges in this city where you constantly feel like your going to be run over by a car.

So, what actions can be taken?
What we (the City staff and council, current property owners and incoming developers, and residents) need to do is:

  • Actively encourage all members of the community to walk whenever and wherever they can as a part of their daily lives by developing regular creative, targeted information, in a way that responds to their personal needs and engages personal support.
  • Create a positive image of walking by celebrating walking as part of cultural heritage and as a cultural event, for example, in architecture, art-exhibitions, theatres, literature readings, photography and street animation.

  • Provide coherent and consistent information and signage systems to support exploration and discovery on foot including links to public transport.

  • Financially reward people who walk more, through local businesses, workplaces and government incentives.

  • Looking at future improvements by hitting the drawing boards with quality design consultants and with an open and flexible mind to providing creative solutions to real problems which exist in community today.
Now is not the time to sit on our heels and relic in the aging 'Masterplan' of the community and think that maintaining the quality of our community is by doing nothing. We are already seen our houses and retail centers deteriorate, many people have already invested in the long term of their properties by making sound improvements; most have not. If we want our community to continue to be the city where people come to shop and raise their families, we must invest in it.

It's not too late to re-think the 'Masterplan'!

'Super Mom' was featured in a past article in the OC Register. All other photos taken by author. Some content courtesy of Walk21.

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