Planning for a Walkable Community

Infographic describing how community planning, continuous community involvement, recreational programming, and social marketing increase use of parks and recreational facilities.

There are several approaches that municipalities can undertake to develop built environments that support active living. Suggested ways to increase opportunities for physical activity include:

Active-Transportation Initiatives

To accommodate pedestrian and bicyclists, the pedestrian network (i.e., trails, paths, sidewalks, walkways) should be continuously linked and connected. Community design principles such as context-sensitive design, mobility-friendly design, mixed-use and infill development can be adopted to support the walkability and bikeability of a community. These practices are supported by the Delaware Complete Streets Policy and the Delaware Statewide Pedestrian Action Plan.

Pedestrian-Friendly Community Design

To provide alternative modes to automobile travel, communities should be designed and built with the pedestrian in mind. Better Models for Development in Delaware sets forth six principles for better development, including strategies to reduce the impact of the car. The Community-Design Tools section of the toolbox provides community design strategies that move toward “an architecture of place.” A Designing Better Places Video Series is a seven-part series that introduces “citizen planners” to general community-design principles. In addition, IPA’s Delaware Planning Education Program offers courses to learn about community design principles and how to revise local codes to foster a more pedestrian- and mobility-friendly community.

Neo-traditional neighborhood design and smart-growth strategies are being implemented to mitigate the effects of sprawl, promote a sense of community, and encourage pedestrian-friendly design. A key smart-growth principle is creating walkable communities that are attractive, convenient, safe, and healthy. For information on walkability enhancing strategies like streetscaping, infill development, and traffic calming, visit the Complete Streets and Efficient Land Use sections of the website.

Parks and Recreation Facilities

Increasing access to open spaces, parks, and active-recreation facilities (i.e., playgrounds, ball fields, picnic areas, sports complexes, and trails) can promote physical activity of community members. To promote use of these facilities, design should reflect community interests, incorporate sustainability features, and consider long-term maintenance needs and management costs. See the Parks and Recreation Master Planning section of the complete communities website for guidance in designing recreational facilities.

Build it and they will come? Not necessarily. Recreation programming can promote use of parks and trails. Social marketing can also influence behavior to promote physical activity and exercise. For real world examples showing how parks help communities become more active and walkable, follow the links below.

National Parks and Recreation Association (NPRA)

Through active transportation, parks and recreation agencies provide valuable benefits to communities by providing an engine for economic development, increasing health and wellbeing, supporting conservation and providing benefits to all citizens regardless of socioeconomic status. NPRA’s research reports convey how parks and recreation agencies have historically been closely aligned with the goals of active transportation principles, as well as playing an important role in the development and management of active transportation infrastructure.

Image of NRPA report titled Active Transportation and Parks and Recreation

Credit: NRPA

Image of NRPA report titled Safe Routes to Parks.

Credit: NRPA


Many of these initiatives encourage active living in that they promote physical activity both recreationally and in daily activities. For more information on promoting active living in your community, see the Active Living Spark Page on the Complete Communities website.

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