CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids is the only community in Iowa to receive a “Walk Friendly” designation, which was awarded earlier this month by a national program.
Cedar Rapids received a Bronze recognition from the Walk Friendly Communities program for its commitment to prioritize pedestrians and “to create safe, comfortable and inviting places to walk throughout the community,” according to a news release.
A Walk Friendly Community is a city or town that has shown a commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans and policies, program officials said. Communities apply to the program to receive recognition in a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum designation.
This was the first year Cedar Rapids applied for the recognition.
The national recognition program was developed to encourage cities and towns across the United States to develop and support walking environments with an emphasis on safety, mobility, access and comfort. In the 10 years since the program began, it has recognized 73 cities across 32 states with Walk Friendly designations. Cedar Rapids and Lakeland, Fla., were the two cities to receive the Bronze recognition this year. Other cities recognized this year were San Francisco, Calif., with a Platinum and Portsmouth, N.H., with a Silver recognition.
Each application submitted is independently scored by at least two reviewers, according to the program website. Reviews take into account community context to ensure that scores accurately reflect expectations for a particular city or town.
Stephanie Schrader, the city’s community development well-being liaison, said the city received the award based on several planning projects and policy changes that support pedestrian safety and walkability. The plans and programs mentioned by the organization included the Pedestrian Master Plan, which is in the planning stages; ADA efforts, which includes 1,950 curb ramps repaired or installed; the annual Healthiest State Walk; a new pedestrian-friendly zoning code; the trail systems; and numerous infrastructure improvements that are pedestrian- and walk-friendly, she said.
A zoning code that is pedestrian-friendly requires developers to do certain things such as build structures closer to the sidewalk, provide accessibility for both vehicles and walking and to build sidewalks as part of their projects such as subdivisions, Emily Breen, communications coordinator for city manager’s office, said.
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Other projects that contributed to this recognition is Paving for Progress, which assesses paving on all the streets and does regular maintenance to improve safety, and support for pedestrians by numerous plans and policies from the recently updated Envision CR comprehensive plan, which focuses on the future of the city.
Schrader also highlighted the Complete Streets project, which ensures that streets are designed not just for vehicles but for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, residents of all ages and those with disabilities. The goal is to make streets easy to cross, walk to shops and bike to work.
Even the street lighting improvements, such as the new colorful lights over the Third Avenue Bridge, has provided a better sense of security to help the area more walking-friendly, Schrader said.
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