Though it's not a prescription to cure obesity or a magic wand to make traffic congestion disappear, the new Georgia Guidebook for Pedestrian Planning does provide detailed directions for administering a healthy dose of help.
The guidebook, developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the Georgia Department of Transportation, helps planners assess their pedestrian environment and prioritize projects to improve it.
Advocates of pedestrian travel say walking can help citizens and communities in numerous ways. It can decrease obesity, and therefore improve public health. Walking can reduce air and noise pollution, as well as traffic congestion and petroleum consumption. It also builds a sense of community. Also, walking requires no special training, and it's relatively cheap to implement. The guidebook explains how.
"There's something in the guidebook for everyone -- from local, regional and state planners in the beginning stages all the way to the advanced stages of developing pedestrian facilities -- and that was our intent," said Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Adjo Amekudzi, the project's principal researcher. "It was also important to us that it not be prescriptive. There is not one model that fits all."
Amekudzi and fellow researcher Karen Dixon -- a former Georgia Tech associate professor who led the study until she moved to Oregon State University in 2005 -- worked with an advisory committee of public and private group stakeholders to establish a vision, goals and objectives for pedestrian planning in Georgia.
"Georgia must continue to develop pedestrian facilities (which include sidewalks, walkways, crosswalks and shelters) as a viable transportation choice," Amekudzi said. "We want to make walking for short trips safe and convenient and provide citizens the opportunity to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. That is our vision."