Yesterday evening I was fortunate to be able to attend the “Walk Riverside: Community-based Planning for Sustainable Lifestyles” Seminar at UCR CE-CERT. The seminar was, in essence, to reveal the results of a study funded by a grant from Caltrans given to the Riverside County Transportation Commission in 2013 to study walkability in Riverside neighborhoods. The study was called “New Urbanism in Action”.
The Arlington and Ramona neighborhoods were chosen and walkability plans were created.” Walkability plans follow the concept of new urbanism, a form of development that improves public health through planning and urban design by integrating shopping and housing in a pedestrian-friendly environment. Increasing walkability helps reduce automobile usage. These plans can include many facets of new urbanism, including usable public transit, wider sidewalks, reduced or slowed vehicular traffic, and local investment to integrate businesses into neighborhoods.”
In collaboration with the city and other partners was Paul Zkofsky, Urban Planner, who carried out the formal Walk Audit. The community engagement component was carried out by Dr. Nancy Jimeno who engaged communities by riding her bike around Arlington and Ramona neighborhoods talking to people about what they thought about their communities to gauge community perception of safety and quality of life. Dr. Juliann Emmons Allison, moderator and researcher for CSSD (Center for Sustainable Suburban Development) was key investigator. There were many other participants in this two-year study as well.
Key components of the study included traffic and air analysis, plan development, education and community engagement. Recommendations were created (*see photo attachment of the recommendations) and have been presented to City Council for review.
A question was asked to the audience. “In what specific ways can our different neighborhoods be made more walkable? We were encouraged to bring this question back to our neighborhoods.” Jane Block, local resident and environmental activist, suggested that we “Take this question back to our community groups and then take the answers to City Hall.” Nancy Jimeno emphasized the point by saying, “Find out what the people have to say. The people are the experts in their communities.” I agree with Jane and Nancy. Maybe we can brainstorm on how the Wood Streets (or other areas) can be a more walkable neighborhood. Or what existing features already make it a great walkable neighborhood?
In addition to the Walk Riverside project and to address the need for more walkable neighborhoods in Riverside County, the Department of Public Health is also rolling out a new program called the Active Transportation Ambassador Program.