Five ways to make better ‘burbs


Santana Row by Eric Fredericks via


The following are strategies and techniques for making a suburban community better.

Walking audits

A walking audit can be used to assess the physical environment of an area to improve the infrastructure for pedestrian safety. Walking audits can enhance certain areas within a neighborhood or corridor, a path from home to school or to one’s place of employment. These audits are a powerful tool that can be used to engage community members in conversations about what they see in their neighborhoods. Often the findings from an audit are used for improvements in safety and access, and are incorporated into a city’s pedestrian master plan or a city’s general plan. AARP has a useful Sidewalks and Survey Audit Tool.

Complete streets

Complete Streets” are designed for safe access for all users regardless of their ability, age or how they travel from point A to point B, including those who travel by foot or wheelchair. Complete Streets often include sidewalks, frequent and safe places to cross streets or intersections, accessible pedestrian ramps and signals, multi-modal bridges and other elements to ensure pedestrians are protected when they travel. Complete Streets approaches will look different in rural locations versus urban areas. Over 1200 regional and local agencies have adopted Complete Street policies, and each year Smart Growth America highlights what they consider to be the best policies.

Revitalization projects

Local parks can be popular draws for residents and visitors alike. Municipalities have been revitalizing parks to serve as destinations in and of themselves, to function as places to connect different parts of neighborhoods, and improve distressed neighborhoods. Park revitalization models are popping up that are intentional about ensuring that neighborhood parks are walkable and incorporate social equity into their design.

Healthy corridors

Many municipalities are making enhancements to commercial strips, such as improving safety for pedestrians through sidewalk and intersection improvements. The Rose Center for Public Leadership, a partnership between NLC and the Urban Land Institute, is working with four communities to redevelop their corridors to positively impact the health of residents and their communities. These projects are also focusing on enhancing connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods, many of which are inhabited by low-income families and people of color.

Health in all policies

Residents who live in walkable communities often have better health outcomes. To effectively incorporate health elements into policy decisions, cities are turning to a “Health in All Policies” approach to address walkability and pedestrian safety. Health in All Policies is a concerted approach used by decision-makers from various sectors to ensure public policy either positively impacts health or does not negatively impact health.

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