June 27, 2010

5 reasons why this pedestrian trail really works: Ogunquit's Marginal Way

Marginal Way
Along the Marginal Way

Yes, Ogunquit, Maine's Marginal Way has spectacular views of the ocean along the full 1.25-mile walking path, and that's certainly a key reason why so many people use it. Not every community is so fortunate to have such breathtaking scenery for a trail. However, there are many other towns with beautiful coastlines, but without the popularity of Ogunquit's. (One might argue at the height of summer that perhaps it's too popular, but that's a discussion for another time.) It's not only the views that make the Marginal Way such an appealing walking environment.

Here are 5 other reasons it works so well, which can be applied to other trails without gorgeous vistas:

* Appealing destinations at both ends. When you walk the Marginal Way, you're not only enjoying the views; you also end up someplace, well, worth ending up: walkable Ogunquit town center on one end; walkable Perkins Cove at the other. (And those who  don't want to make a roundtrip  can hop a trolley bus at either end.) Something to think about when designing railtrails.

* Easy entrance/exit at several points along the trail, not just each end. There are clear, well-marked and attractive ways to join the trail at several points besides the start and finish. So you know you're not trapped (or force to cut through places you're not necessarily meant to be) when you start out.

* Not cut off from town. When you think nature trail, you might think of paths that go through woods or other nature areas, far removed from the sights and sounds of a city. However, the Marginal Way works so well for pedestrians of all types and not simply nature hikers, precisely because it's not cut off from the community. While nature is on one side, the town is very much on the other. And the homes and yards looking out at the trail help give it a feeling of safety. It's the same reason why having windows of homes or businesses close to a sidewalk in a city center makes for a much more appealing walking environment than a garage door or blank wall.

Bench along the Martinal Way

* Benches along the way.
Those benches allow people who may not want to walk the full length at once not to be intimidated by the trail; and having a lot of people relaxing along the way also makes for a nicer environment for those out for a stroll.

* Great upkeep. Trash is picked up, plants are well trimmed, weeds are kept at bay. A well maintained trail also feels safer and more appealing than one with litter and out-of-control plants invading the walking area.

June 8, 2010

Better streetscapes lead to more walking

Add Scientific American to the list of those saying we need aesthetically pleasing streetscapes to encourage more walking.

Says a recent podcast:
"According to Andrew Furman of Ryerson University in Toronto [http://bit.ly/dr76ot] . . .  in many places in North America it’s just not that nice to walk. But if cities and suburbs put more effort into building better pedestrian routes, he says more people might leave their SUVs at home."

And as I mentioned and Brett commented on a recent post, European cities and towns make much more of an effort at this -- not only with effective transit systems, but with communities designed with walking in mind, not simply driving.

"With its older cities, Europe is more amenable to meandering. Think cobblestone streets and hidden gardens. But North American cities and suburbs are more modern and car-centric, which generally forces pedestrians and cyclists to always take the same, boring path from A to B," Scientific American agrees.

Attractive pedestrian paths aren't a frill. They're vital to get people out of cars and walking from place to place.