Of 500 American urban places, Oklahoma City ranks last in "walkability.” Not only is walking not encouraged, it’s actually discouraged with public policy, an urban design consultant says.
City officials are concerned with the "walkability” ranking, enough so that they hired Jeff Speck to make recommendations. Speck’s report, issued May 15, puts some cracks in the sidewalk of conventional wisdom. For one thing, weather doesn’t necessarily discourage walking. Some of the coldest (Toronto), windiest (Chicago) and muggiest (Miami) cities have far better pedestrian traffic acceptance than Oklahoma City — which can be cold, windy and muggy all within the same week. Mass transit, rather than discourage walking by providing an alternative, increases pedestrian traffic. Riders like walking to and from transit stops. If driving to a stop is required, many will avoid mass transit altogether. Large-scale transit, Speck says, isn’t possible in a "nonwalking” city. Speck recommends street design changes and incentives for downtown housing, to build demand for transit and pedestrian systems.