Thursday, September 17, 2015

Naples Pathways: Walkability, a local issue that's gone national

Naples Pathways Coalition also focused on walkability in a guest column in NDN today.  If you live in Collier County, you have an opportunity to weigh in with your elected officials prior to their Oct. 6th meeting that will focus on the need for more sidewalks and a complete streets approach.

Naples Daily News 9/17/15, Guest Column: Beth Brainard, Naples Pathways Coalition

NAPLES, Fla. - This summer, the Collier County Planning Commission took a serious look at how sidewalks, or the lack of them, affects neighborhood residents as well as county taxpayers.
Some sobering statistics were revealed.

Over 2,700 Collier County children who live within walking distance of their schools are "courtesy bussed" because their neighborhoods lack sidewalks and are deemed too dangerous. This costs the local school system — not the state or federal government — over $500,000 per year.

A sidewalk installed when a new house is under construction costs approximately $1,000, which is included in the cost of the lot or carried by the developer. To install a sidewalk after a neighborhood is built, it costs approximately six times more, around $6,000 per lot, and the cost is paid by the county — which means by you, the taxpayers.

Twenty-three percent of all children in Collier County are obese and another 18 percent are at risk of becoming so. This is higher than the national average that says 16 percent of children are obese.
Then, last week, a really wonderful thing happened.

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a historic call to action to make walking a national priority. (See article on 11D.) Step It Up!

The Surgeon General's call to action to promote walking and walkable communities, "calls on Americans to become more physically active through walking and on the nation to better support walking and walkability."

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said increasing physical activity significantly reduces the risk of chronic diseases and related risk factors. Additionally physical activity has other health benefits, like promoting positive mental health and healthy aging, and it is one of the simplest, most important actions people can take to improve their overall health. We already know that, don't we?

The Step It Up! call to action includes five goals.
  • Make walking a national priority.
  • Design communities that make it safe and easy to walk for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Promote programs and policies to support walking where people live, learn, work and play.
  • Provide information to encourage walking and improve walkability.
  • Improve the quality of data collected about walking and walkability, address research gaps and evaluate programs to promote walking and walkability.
We need to get out of our cars and up off our sofas and move! However, that is easier said than done if you live in a neighborhood where there is no place to safely walk — one without sidewalks; or where you are too old and infirmed or too young to cross a street to get to it; or the only place to walk is along a shadeless stretch of sidewalk along a high speed road; or if you are brave and fast enough to cross a six-lane road to get to a path. All these problems exist in Collier County.

While this national campaign ramps up, local decisions about sidewalks and walkability will be made. The Planning Commission, which serves in an advisory capacity to the county commissioners (CC), passed the information along to Commissioners and it will hopefully be part of a larger discussion at a commissioners' workshop this fall on sidewalks and Complete Streets planning.
Hopefully the commissioners will also consider the Surgeon General's call to action.

If you and your children or grandchildren can't walk safely in your neighborhood, call or email your commissioner before Oct. 6 and let him or her know.

Beth Brainard is the executive director of Naples Pathways Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works to make the greater Naples area a safe, bikeable, walkable community. Contact Beth at or visit

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