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Least walkable Northeast Ohio neighborhoods: should come with a Surgeon General's warning

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/09/15 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Walking

The U.S. Surgeon General today launched "Step It Up" a campaign to address why, even though 60% of Americans reported walking for transportation or leisure in the last week, most of them also confess that streets prevent them from walking more. More Americans would let their kids walk to school if they didn’t fear letting them cross streets where cars habitually speed.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, would like communities' help in redesigning streets to be safer. His call is for city leaders to focus on transportation and land-use—and bring complete streets to the forefront.

“Imagine if there were a Surgeon General warning label (for the health risks) associated with the least walkable neighborhoods,” Smart Growth America noted.

Golf anyone?<br />An apartment complex in Broadview Heights.The sidewalk ends<br />Pepper Pike notoriously snubs the sidewalk<br />Broadview Road is indeed broad and fast, but it also has a bike lane, bus shelter and sidewalks. Imagine if the apartments also had a place.A stroad <br />Lorain Avenue in Fairview Park, Cleveland acts as a fast moving moat between residents and the park.Stuck in the middle<br />Could Maple Heights turn its fortunes around with a radical, walkable makeover?

Taking the Surgeon General’s warning, we look at a random sample of the least walkable neighborhoods in the Northeast Ohio region—as measured by the popular site, WalkScore. All locations have multi-family rental options, so, some density exists from which to build a more walkable area. 


West

Rocky River @ Detroit Avenue > Walk Score: 10


River actually has potential to be walkable. RTA runs a bus line on Detroit which has the bones of a traditional “streetcar” main street. But, it has almost no grid to speak of—almost every residential street ends in a cul-de-sac. If the community opened itself up to walking— and made its residential streets connect—and added more multi-family / mixed use options on Detroit it would give a big boost to its walkability.

Parma @ Snow Road > Walk Score: 37

It’s hard to imagine a more car-centric name than Chevrolet Boulevard, but this stretch between Snow and Brookpark is lined with redbrick multi-family apartments within a 20 minute walk of shopping and Holy Name High School. If the city built a dense, walkable mixed-use village on the vacant GM factory lot and put the wide, under-used roads on a diet, it might signal this as a thriving place rather than one time had forgot.

Strongsville @ Pearl Road > Walk Score: 20

The description “Spacious Ranch Park” sort of says it best. Little ranch homes on big lots. Cul-de-sacs dead ending in virgin forest. What can the prototypical exurb do? Move from last century’s model to a Crocker Park type of thing (and how to reconcile the distance from existing job and population centers)? There is a bus, the #51 that runs on Pearl Road, and a Rapid Park ‘N Ride, but the low density land use here makes transit expensive on a per-rider basis (which takes resources from an already struggling transit system). Can an exurb choose a dense, walkable downtown? Would it help?

Broadview Heights @ Royalton Road > Walk Score: 5

Apartment parks where golf carts shuttle kids to the bus stop on big “collector” roads. People still walk here because, unlike some faux-country suburbs, there are sidewalks on the big street, Broadview Road, and even a bike lane and bus shelters for the #135 (inter-suburban line) and #35 Bus which goes to W. 25th Street. It would take the intrepid who do walk to downtown Broadview Heights 30-minutes. Imagine how that walk would feel if, instead of apartment parks set way back from the street, the buildings lined the roadway and gave a sense of place with eyes on the street.

Fairview Park @ Lorain Avenue
 > Walk Score: 20

The far west side of Cleveland is almost completely car dependent. Fewer people per acre, wide streets like Lorain Avenue, residential cul-de-sacs and an irregular street grid are a pattern that discourages walking. Building from assets like a bus line with a street calming effort and more of a downtown strategy—Lorain Avenue wouldn’t have to act as much like a moat between the community and the Rocky River Reservation.

East

Maple Heights @ Rockside Road > Walk Score: 28

Squint your eyes and you can almost imagine you’re in Austin. The flat-roofed, mid-century modern buildings have appeal. Imagine burying the power lines, doing a road diet and a thoughtful infill development strategy and the inner ring suburb that’s a poster child for distress might just turn the corner.

Chagrin Falls @ Solon Road > Walk Score: 18

The problem with Chagrin Falls is its one of America’s most charming towns but getting there on foot if you live outside of town can be a real challenge. The town needs to re-think giving more people access to walking both in (even Hudson has a new town center development after all) and to the town center (with a more connected street grid).

Pepper Pike @ Bremerton Road > Walk Score: 7

Not having sidewalks—and an infamous mayoral decree that residents don’t want sidewalks—really helps solidify Pepper Pike as one of the most unwalkable communities in Northeast Ohio. Some day it might re-examine this idea that “country living” means missing out on the opportunity to walk safely in your community.

South Euclid @ South Belvoir Road > Walk Score: 22

South Belvoir is one of the east side’s prettiest boulevards. It’s down in a valley which makes the mature hardwood trees lining it even more towering. The problem is, it’s long and remote and so to make it walkable really means making it bike-able. The best opportunity could be for the city of South Euclid to capitalize on the East Side Greenway Planning Study which recommends converting two lightly traveled car lanes abutting the green median into a “Midway” cycle track. It would transform the east side, which has too few, good, north-south options for biking.

Euclid @ Buena Vista Drive > Walk Score: 10

Euclid really could be a sleeping giant. It’s close to the lake; and has the east side’s only Metropark running through it. It has a traditional downtown on Euclid Avenue (that has been allowed to wither). The residential streets like Buena Vista Drive are scenic - with tall trees and charming mid-century ranches—but they show what can happen to a traditional community that buys into cul-de-sacs and an unraveled street grid. If residential streets can be re-connected, then the walk to the local elementary school is 0.2 miles (not double or triple that).

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Austin
1 year ago

My current definition of walkability is a combination of destinations within walking distance and a careful consideration of pedestrians in designing the streets. Of course, sidewalks are a part of that, but if pedestrians have to make 2 or 3 crossings when only 1 should be required to cross a road or if there are missing crosswalks and curb cuts and gaping intersections that promote aggressive driving, then, in my opinion, that cuts against an area's walkability, even if sidewalks are present.

Marc
1 year ago

Austin - your first statement intrigues me; I'd like to hear more of your thoughts on what walkable means. To your question, we did write a post about Northeast Ohio's most walkable places (based on Walk Score and some other criteria). Check out the post and let me know what you think
/blog/2014/11/clevelands-best-places-to-live-car-lite

Austin
1 year ago

Are there any walkable bright spots in the region? In other words, are there any areas that were recently made more walkable that are worth high-lighting?

Austin
1 year ago

I think that one of the biggest obstacles to obtaining truly walkable neighborhoods is convincing folks that walkable means more than sidewalks.

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