I am proud to celebrate World Landscape Architecture Month by highlighting the positive impact of landscape architecture design on our communities. As professionals in this field, we possess a remarkable capacity to craft outdoor spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, promoting thriving and healthy communities. An essential aspect of this process is prioritizing walkability and multi-modal connectivity, which is crucial for developing and constructing communities that support physical and mental wellness.

The advantages of walkability are numerous, as they provide a secure and easy way for pedestrians to explore the outdoor environment and reach specific destinations. The most apparent benefit is the promotion of active lifestyles and physical activity. Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has shown that people in highly walkable neighborhoods were nearly twice as likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines as those in less walkable areas (Frank, L. D., et al., 2007). Landscape architects must prioritize pedestrian safety, convenience, and comfort to create communities that encourage walking. This involves identifying destinations and developing site plans that create connectivity throughout. Our team considers various factors, such as ADA conformity, design widths, surface materials, and lighting, to accommodate all types of pedestrians. Street trees and landscaping are critical when focusing on walkability adjacent to streets, providing shade, reducing heat island effects, and making walking more enjoyable while offering a visual buffer between pedestrians and traffic.

Increasing the number of walkable amenity users leads to reduced vehicular usage and, subsequently, less automobile pollution. Research from the Journal of Environmental and Public Health shows that residents in highly walkable neighborhoods experience significantly lower exposure to air pollution than those living in less walkable areas (Sallis, J. F., et al., 2013). Landscape architects can integrate rain gardens and bioswales with other stormwater management practices to enhance the environment along walking paths.

Complete street design combines comprehensive design practices and accommodates additional users such as bicyclists and public transit riders, creating a safe and effective multi-modal transportation corridor. By providing opportunities for multiple modes of travel, complete street designs have the power to increase physical activity levels. Research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health shows that residents of neighborhoods with more sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks, were more likely to engage in physical activity than those in communities with fewer complete street features. For every additional complete street feature in a neighborhood, residents were 24% more likely to engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity (Lockett D, Risser H, Hu H, et al., 2018). Complete street designs also incorporate traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps, to slow down vehicles and reduce the risk of accidents. Bicycle features, such as bike lanes, parking facilities, and shared-use paths, encourage cycling as a mode of transportation.

Landscape architects can encourage more people to walk or cycle by creating safe and comfortable walking environments instead of driving. At RVi, we embrace the opportunity to create outdoor spaces that promote healthy communities by encouraging walkable communities, designing trails and paths, and implementing multi-modal designs. We aim to create healthier and more sustainable communities for all.