Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Walkable Communities

It’s Biblical

As communities grow and develop, as we become increasingly interested in health, reduced traffic, and logicaldevelopment, the term “walkable communities” is popping up more and more.

A walkable community is a community (or a part of a community) where driving is optional. Land uses are diverse, small, and intermixed. To walk from one place to another is safe, comfortable, and interesting. A car is not required.

The typical community evolved with land uses that are large and separate from all other land uses — everything is far from everything else. Walking is not even an option. Roads are required between land uses and these roads tend to get busier and more congested and must be widened (and then widened again).

Walkable communities, consist of smaller and diverse land uses with connecting streets. These streets are 2-lane and 2-way. Parallel parking is often present creating a steel barrier between the roadway and the sidewalk. And in a downtown area, this separation enhances pedestrian safety, comfort, and reduces noise — desirable factors if outdoor seating or dining is present.

Granted, urban sprawl, where large land uses are separate from other large land uses, is quite difficult to change. It evolved over many years and takes many years to alter. And maybe that’s ok. But if walkability (or bike-ability) is important and desired, then future land uses must be diverse and intermixed. Sidewalks and bikeways must be safe and interesting (roadways should not be bikeways). And regarding bikeways, it’s true — if you build it they will come.

Urban sprawl and walkable neighborhoods contain the same things, it’s how big they are and how interspersed they are. And in downtown areas (the easiest area to “fix” by the way) land uses tend to be out of balance — housing is lacking. The jobs to housing ratio is off.

Walkable communities must be safe. When designing roads, trees along the roadway tend to slow traffic. Corner radii impact speed — the larger the radii, the faster cars can turn.  Roadway width also affects speed — the wider the road, the faster cars drive and the less safe, the less walkable the area:

“Broad is the road that leads to destruction … narrow the road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14)

That says it all. And remember, the best time to plan a walkable community was 30 years ago — the second best time is today.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online ideas available at