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Why do people choose to drive distances that are short enough to walk – say, under a mile?

Raleigh’s Matt Tomasulo, founder of Walk [Your City] (WYC), wondered the same thing. He asked his neighbors why they chose to drive instead of walk to the grocery store, the park, school – places within 15 minutes. He heard one frequent response: “It’s too far!”

Would his neighbors decide to walk (or bike) if they knew how close by these places really were? In 2012, Matt tested this question with the first WYC campaign, installed at three Raleigh intersections. Matt’s eye-catching street signs tell walkers the minutes it takes to get to neighborhood locations on foot, instead of using car-scaled miles. He found the signs caused quite a stir … and, in fact, they got more feet on the street by showing folks that “it’s not too far!”

Walking is a simple way to stay active, but when we get in the habit of driving everywhere, it’s all too easy to pick up the keys for even quick trips. Over 80 percent of all trips in the US are by car – but 40 percent of those trips are a mile or less (2009 National Household Travel Survey).

Building on that initial test, the WYC team worked with community members and city staff in Raleigh and Durham to bring sign campaigns to these cities. Each campaign has a unique focus, like connecting Downtown Durham’s districts, or creating a cultural walking trail in a historic Raleigh neighborhood. Residents and visitors can find the signs at key intersections and scan a sign’s QR code to access walking / biking directions to their destination. You can see our current campaigns in these two cities online at https://walkyourcity.org/wyc-bcbsnc.

Since Matt posted those first signs back in 2012, communities around the world have used WYC campaigns to highlight their favorite places. We’ve heard so many success stories:

  • Children spotting the signs and encouraging their parents to walk to the park;
  • Couples walking to their neighborhood movie theater for the first time; and
  • Neighborhood groups celebrating trails, coffee shops, farmers markets, and more.

On a personal note, I’ve done my own trip-swapping upon realizing through WYC that my closest grocery store is just a 14-minute walk away — and an even quicker trip on two wheels instead of four!

Thanks to support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), we are making it easier for Triangle residents to make strides toward a healthier lifestyle. We can’t wait to see you on the sidewalk!

  Walk [Durham] – Downtown Walk [Raleigh] – Six Forks Corridor
# signs – total 37 40
# signs – breakdown 28 commercial / 7 parks / 2 entertainment 27 parks / 13 commercial
minimum trip length 2 min walk(to art, bikes, and Major the Bull – at different spots) 2 min walk(to a park)
maximum trip length 19 min walk
(to restaurants and music venues)
16 min bike ride(to a greenway connection)
fun facts points people to areas with over 36 places to eat, with choices from sushi to BBQ connects users to 271.3 acres of parks and 18.7 miles of greenway trails

Guest Blogger:

marieMaire Dekle leads civic operations and opportunities at Walk [Your City], working with partner communities to implement successful pedestrian campaigns. Prior to joining WYC, Maire managed outreach and municipal relations for local foods start-up LoMo Market. She is passionate about helping folks make their neighborhoods happier and healthier!

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