Skatepark advocates should be ready to consider how skateparks and skateboarding fit with transportation and walkability issues. Public transit and walkability are both aspects of how pedestrians might move through the city.
Walkability is a term many urban planners use to describe the appeal of certain roads or districts to non-motorized transportation. Walkability, as a planning term, mostly speaks to a street’s aesthetics and comfort. The term can sometimes include bicyclists and joggers; “walkability” is not strictly about people walking.
People are attracted to places where there are other people.
Walkability is an important consideration for retail districts. Walkability is never completely achieved because it cannot be measured. However, walkable streets are easy to identify when you know what to look for. The signature elements of walkable streets are:
- Slow vehicle traffic
- Healthy trees
- Sidewalks, and sidewalk-level windows and doors
- Outdoor seating
- Bike lanes
- Connection to the cultural center of the neighborhood
- High population density
- Intersections within ¼ mile
Foot traffic is key to many boutique districts. Sustainable urban design principles encourage the development of more walking districts, and support for green transportation.
For communities struggling with obesity, walkability should be a high priority. Studies have shown that residents in walkable neighborhoods walk much more often than those neighborhoods that favor vehicular traffic. A study from the University of Utah found that residents that lived in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods weighed, on average, 6 to 10 pounds less than those that lived in neighborhoods designed primarily for automobile traffic. (For more on this interesting study, see the Walkability and Body Mass Index: Density, Design, and New Diversity Measures, American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Vol. 35, Issue 3.) For skateparks, this suggests that an investment in green transportation and support for pedestrian mobility addresses public health concerns.
From a retail standpoint, skateboarders are pedestrians. This notion will appeal to many small business owners, and they may see the value of having the skatepark near their store. (Others, however, may believe that the nuisance of skateboarders will drive foot traffic away.) All things considered, it’s much better to have human activity in an area than not. People are, after all, attracted to places where there are other people.
Public transportation encourages pedestrian activity and reduces cars on the street. It also provides those without private transportation the means to reach areas of the city beyond walking distance. Public transportation routes are typically along main thoroughfares and arterials through the city. Skateparks work well near bus and/or train stops because it significantly enlarges that skatepark’s service area and attracts more regular patrons.