Photo courtesy of Walk Long Beach.
Walk Long Beach (not to be confused with Walk Bike Long Beach) released a year-end update last month iterating the general importance of walking to promote good health and reflected on its past accomplishments.
“One of our primary missions is to get more people to understand that walkability is a right, and that making an area more walkable is a series of design and habit choices, from the design of the street, to having local services to walk to, or committing to walking the dog on a more regular basis,” said Steve Gerhardt, executive director of WLB.
Starting with the City of Long Beach’s Vision Zero effort, WLB stated it helped push the city to pursue the policy back in May 2016, one the city signed on to in an effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries among all users of the road including pedestrians and bicyclists by 2026. The organization said it will continue watching the progress of the effort to design safer streets as the city develops a Vision Zero policy to be adopted in 2018.
“Seeing this through is our highest priority,” Gerhardt said. “If done right, Vision Zero will make the streets safer for everyone, regardless of what mode of travel they choose to use.”
“Vision Zero can reach into all kinds of unexpected areas,” he continued. “In San Francisco, for example, their Fire Department recently bought narrower fire engines to more easily access smaller streets and more alleys in older neighborhoods as part of their Vision Zero effort. They are buying the equipment that fits their existing urban fabric, rather than setting a design standard for wider streets that may never be built. This kind of approach will work well in the historic and older neighborhoods in many parts of Long Beach.”
In 2016 WLB won a grant from Just Transit to update its local Safe Routes to School maps for Long Beach Unified School District schools. Almost 50 of those maps are in production, with WLB expected to be working in the field over the next couple of months to confirm best routes, identify improvements and complete the maps. Finished maps will be distributed to parents and students and will be made available digitally starting this spring as part of WLB’s second annual Long Beach Walk to School Day.
“We want to make sure that designated routes have well-marked crosswalks and good sidewalks, and that the maps are easy to read and widely available in multiple languages,” Gerhardt said.
WLB now has 35 walking loop cards in its collection, with the newest cards made in conjunction with the US Green Building Council Long Beach Branch for three neighborhoods near Broadway and Redondo. The most recently updated cards are for Central and South Wrigley and were released at a tree planting event in December.
“In Long Beach, there was so much focus on improving bikeability, and we’ve made great progress on this front in the last ten years,” Gerhardt said. “Walkability wasn’t being discussed to the same degree, and actually affects everyone who walks or rolls. Most every trip includes at least some walking.”
Moving forward into 2018, WLB will prepare its inaugural annual report to highlight programs, policy projects and more. And in the next month or so, WLB will also begin sifting through more than 40 responses to its request for advisory board members to choose seven to 11 people, which WLB is still accepting suggestions for. The nonprofit will also be planning a wider variety of walking events for the new year, from mobile gatherings to “some serious treks” in an effort to showcase city history, unique architecture and public spaces.
“Walking is so good for you, from improving circulation, to managing diabetes to elevating mood,” Gerhardt said. “We encourage everyone to walk briskly for at least 150 minutes every week, and every little bit counts. Walking really is a miracle drug. If you got a new fitness tracker as a present, or are still looking to set a New Years Resolution, walking more regularly would be a good one.”
Learn more about Walk Long Beach here.
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