Walkable Cities are Good News for Small Business
When a city is more walkable—supporting pedestrians with narrower streets, wide sidewalks, and nearby recreational outlets—shops are frequented more often and do far better than those in less walkable areas.
A report issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that “businesses appear to do better in a walkable commercial areas than in areas attracting mainly drive-to patronage.”
Collecting case studies from five cities across the United States—cities that have invested in public transportation or sawed off portions of street lanes for foot traffic—the report also discovered that “walkable retail areas have the potential to attract many people beyond the immediate walking radius.”
Those smaller, walkable centers often mean stronger small businesses, as well. Among the top 20 cities where small businesses saw the most growth in 2012, at least half feature significant pedestrian infrastructure.
A generation ago, city centers were vacated, leading to the development of outlying suburban communities and large retail shopping centers, leaving small businesses behind in their older, urban neighborhoods.
Developers of suburban communities, mindful of that generation's desire for “space,” separated residential areas from commercial ones, making it mandatory to use an automobile even to run simple errands.
“The worst idea we [America] has ever had is suburban sprawl,” said Jeff Speck, city planner and author of “Walkable City,” in a TED Talk.
Where once the car was “an instrument of freedom,” according to Speck, it has since “become a gas belching, time wasting, and life threatening prosthetic device that many of us, most Americans, need just to live their daily lives.” (check out more by Jeff Speck at GOOD.)
On average, Americans spend 25.5 minutes commuting one-way to work. For 8.1 percent of commuters, the drive is 60 minutes or more—one in four also commute from an outside county.
To support living so far from work, an average household spent $2,912 on gas in 2012—or 4 percent of average pretax income, a 30-year high.
For a newer generation, spending that much time in a car and committing a healthy chunk of their income on committing simply doesn't cut it anymore, sparking a migration back into city centers and a funneling of money, previously used for gasoline, back into environments that promote small businesses (known as new urbanism).
It's why, of the 10 U.S. Cities with the best projected Walk Score for 2014—cities like Baltimore, Miami, and New York—seven are also included in the top 50 places most friendly to small businesses.
With small businesses as their backbone, walkable cities are once more rewiring how life, work, and leisure are ordered.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s Do More. A Call-to Action by Gap CMO Seth Farbman Data shows that 24% of the 21 million Americans making minimum wage are working in retail, and 64% of those are women.
Meet the Self-Proclaimed President of Colombia's Hottest Music Trend Champeta started as an outsider Afro-Colombian folk movement. Now it's taking over the country.
Cryptocurrency Regains its Reputation in Paradise Can a renowned tourist hub in Bali become a bitcoin wonderland?
Can a Miracle Fruit Overcome its Unsavory Reputation? Conservationists, farmers, and nutritionists are singing the praises of the breadfruit. If only it didn't taste so bad.
New App Aims to Tackle Hunger, Poverty, and Environmental Issues at Once PareUp wants to connect food purveyors to thrifty consumers looking to score deals on unused, but still edible, items.
My Postpartum Blues Don’t Mean I’ve Failed at Motherhood Want to help mothers dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety? Try listening, not judging.
Meet the Filmmaker Who Infiltrated the Underbelly of Commercial Oil Development Rachel Boynton's film follows the quest to drill for oil off the coast of West Africa, and Ghana's attempt to protect its people.
One Stitch Closer: Brittany Created Her Own Solution Brittany Wegner’s personal quest to conquer cancer with technology 22 year-old technology savant Brittany Wenger’s innovation that changed the way we diagnose cancer
Work Just Got a Whole Lot Easier for One Million Female Farmers Green Heron Tools breaks new ground with its female friendly gear.
Don’t Go Back to Iraq An Iraq War veteran and Marine urges U.S. politicians to avoid the slippery slope of military escalation in fighting ISIL.
A Thread of Hope Can a family business save Somalia's economy? Somalia’s most important remittance operator is locked in an epic battle with government regulators.
Five Animals Teaching Humanity How to Live Longer Scientists turn to lizards, whales, and more for tips on helping humans cheat death.