March 7, 2017 | Liz Austin

Walkability is a top goal for many urban planners. Discover some of the most creative pedestrian-friendly projects in St. Louis and around the globe.

While some studies say walkability drives wealth and development, in St. Louis, it may be the other way around. As local developers like Green Street look to improve the overall accessibility of neighborhoods, walkability is a key factor, allowing for easy and automobile-free access to work, shopping, dining, and more.

However, St. Louis still has a ways to go before reaching premium walkability. Choosing to design buildings around people rather than automobiles necessitates attention to pedestrian access at every stage of the design process. Some neighborhoods have the pedestrian infrastructure in place, but not the critical mass of commercial opportunities to encourage walking over driving; while others have the business, but lack the proper infrastructure. Perhaps St. Louis could take a few notes from these five examples of highly walkable cities from across the globe.

1. Barcelona, Spain

Take a look at any aerial shot of Barcelona and you’ll see that it’s a well-designed city, with neat little rows and perfect squares that would make any detail-oriented urban planner happy. However, with streets designed to accommodate cars and cars only, Barcelona residents are embarking on a new journey to take back their streets for pedestrian use. A new concept, christened the ‘superblock,’ designates nine square blocks of city space for walking and requires all traffic to stick to the perimeter. The interior is divided into one-way loops made for pedestrians, as well as for local vehicles kept to a very strict speed limit.

2. Times Square

Head to New York City and you’ll see that cars are banned from portions of both Times and Herald Squares in midtown. Pedestrians can move more freely, and the risk of car-related accidents and injuries has gone down by 35% since the change. The project, which was initiated by former Mayor Bloomberg, was a huge success in that it managed to increase foot traffic without punishing drivers. Even residents are happy, after initial worries that the change would take away some of that classic New York feel. Instead, the hustle and bustle has remained, preserving the iconic spot’s incomparable atmosphere.

3. London

A proposal for a new pedestrian bridge crossing the Thames arose in London last year. The beautifully designed bridge sports a modern look and is located in the Eastern Docklands, where it also allows tall ships to pass beneath it. The new development is perfectly situated in an area of the city that was once home to many dock warehouses, but that now welcomes new life in the forms of apartments and condos, offices and skyscrapers.

4. Atlanta

Atlanta is known throughout the South for its troublesome traffic. Its sprawling suburbs make for endless waits when traveling in, out of or around the city. However, the Atlanta BeltLine is a perfect solution for pedestrians. A 22-mile loop, which was built from disused railway beds, welcomes foot traffic and bikers within the city’s urban core. With the city’s population poised to continue rising through the coming years, the well-timed project has received a warm welcome from the community.

5. Mexico City

A new kind of walkability project can be found in Mexico City, another traffic-heavy destination. The city is working to fight the incredibly high pedestrian accident death count, with hundreds dying throughout the city each year after being struck by cars. Since 2012, a masked crusader has taken to the streets, spraying zebra crossings on the pavement and ensuring that pedestrians are protected from the city’s dangerous traffic congestion. His work has not gone unnoticed. The city government is reducing speed limits and has joined the Vision Zero movement, which aims to establish road safety rules and protect human life.

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