How Walkable is your Neighbourhood? A Virtual Walking Audit in Honour of Jane’s Walk, 2020

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban activist who advocated for preservation of urban communities where a diverse population could live, work and walk to most the services they required.

Most years members of Walk On, Victoria participate in Jane’s Walk Weekend by leading several community walks. This year, because of social distancing necessary to help control the spread of Covid-19, we are offering suggestions for alternative virtual walks.

How Walkable Is Your Neighbourhood?

One way Walk On Victoria suggests celebrating Jane’s Walk Weekend this year is that pedestrians do a walking audit to assess the walkability of your own neighbourhood. Walking audits are a recommended part of all Jane’s Walks. Jacobs believed that a walkable neighbourhood is key to building community relationships and to keeping communities safe.

To do a walking audit, take your camera and a notepad and set out to rate the walking infrastructure you encounter along your walk.

You are encouraged to choose a walk that is not only recreational but that is also en route to where you carry out daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, banking, going to a pharmacy, the library, etc. If you don’t live within walking distance of any of these amenities, then do an audit of the route you usually walk to catch a bus or for exercise and recreation.

Here is a sample walking audit that two Walk On Victoria members completed for the segment of Richmond Road between Cedar Hill X-Road and Lansdowne:

Virtual Jane’s Walk Audit Richmond Rd., Saanich

Some of the factors to consider in doing your audit are:

  • Condition of the sidewalks: Is the pavement smooth or broken? Free of debris or littered with leaves, dirt, gravel, or trash? Is the pavement even or dangerously slanted? Is there room on the sidewalk (or pathway) for two people to walk side by side? Is the sidewalk wide enough that someone walking in the opposite direction is able to pass? Do obstacles such as parked cars, utility poles, signs, fire hydrants, bushes and shrubs or drains obstruct the path? Is the sidewalk wide enough for use by someone on a mobility scooter, wheelchair, or walker or someone pushing a baby stroller? What is the drainage like on the sidewalk? Are there pools of sitting water or mud that is slippery? In winter, are there places where snow and ice are not removed?

Picture 3B

  • What about areas where sidewalk is absent? Is sidewalk continuous, or do you need to cross the street to get to sidewalk when sidewalk on one side of the street abruptly ends? Do you need to walk in the street to get around parked cars that pull onto the boulevard?

Picture 6A

  • Safety of crosswalks: How many crosswalks are there on your route? What is the distance between crosswalks? Are crosswalks so far apart that pedestrians have little alternative other than to dash across the street mid-block?  Are crosswalks located in a place that is clearly visible for motorists from a safe distance (not on a curve in the road)?  Are the intersections wheelchair/stroller/scooter accessible?
  • Does walking along your route feel safe? Is there separation for pedestrians from the street or does the street abut directly with the sidewalk? What is the traffic speed limit? Does it feel like cars are moving by too close and too fast? Are there any traffic calming features on your route?

Picture 7C

  • Bus stops: Are there crosswalks near bus stops, or does a pedestrian need to cross mid-block to get to the bus stop? What is the condition of the bus stop? Is there a bus shelter? A bench? Is the bus stop well-lighted? Is the bus stop just a sign on the edge of the road or on the front lawn of a residence?

Picture 7A

  • Walking at night and in bad weather: Walking on a nice day in May is quite different from walking in heavy rain at 9 pm in November. In bad weather, are you likely to have water splashed on you by passing cars? Is the street lighting on your route adequate to make you visible to motorists? Are you able to see the pavement well enough to avoid tripping or slipping on debris on the sidewalk?
  • Places to rest: Are there any benches or places to rest along your route? If so, are they in good repair and easily accessible?
  • Natural environment: Is your route attractive? Are there trees and other greenery? Is the built environment along your route in good repair, and do business owners keep the sidewalk in front of their businesses clear of debris and obstacles?Picture 3C
  • Is there any art along your route? Any signage to help with directions?
  • What are some of your other observations about the walkability on your route? What changes need to happen to make your pedestrian experience safer and more pleasant?

Picture 4A

If you want to do your own walk audit, please share it with us! You can also send a copy of your audit results to your local municipality to point out areas for improvement.

For a formal walk audit form that some members have used as an advocacy tool in the past, please click here.