There's a growing interest in walkable and bikeable neighborhoods these days. Some of it is driven by an interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but often moreso it's pushed by the realization that our built environment directly impacts both our health and our wallet. When a road is designed for all (or at least a handful) of transportation modes, it is considered a "complete street." Although there is often a lot of hand-wringing over the concept in car-centric communities, complete streets produce an environment where cars drive slower and there is definied space for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The layout of older communities typically includes short blocks shaded by mature trees with a more dense population that its’ suburban counterparts. This walkable environment is the type that urbanists and those using form-based codes aspire to achieve.
Read more about complete streets from the National Complete Streets Coalition
We look forward to adding to this page in the future, but for now read how school siting can play a big role in the multi-modal accessibility of neighborhoods.
This intersection of interests (active transportation, greenhouse gas reductions, preservation, livability, etc.) is illustrated in the debate around where communities locate their schools. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with others like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, and Smart Growth America, believe community-centered schools help communities meet additional goals such as addressing climate change, keeping neighborhoods healthy and providing high quality learning environments. These schools are small enough to be located near the residents they serve and in close proximity to resources such as libraries and parks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 87 percent of students in 1969 lived within one mile of their school and walked or biked to get there. By 2001, only 21 percent lived within one mile of their school.
In Georgia, for example, much of the population growth has taken place in automobile-oriented suburbs. In 2007 the American Journal of Preventative Medicine estimated that a mere 6 percent of elementary students, 11 percent of middle school students, and 6 percent of high school students in the state that lived close enough that they could reasonably walk to school.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation believes that community-centered schools are one of the keys to keeping older neighborhoods vital. They also offer many benefits such as being near the residents they serve and allowing for multiple transportation options such as biking and walking.
In 2010, the National Trust published Helping Johnny Walk to School: Removing Barriers to Community-Centered Schools. In this report, the National Trust offers suggestions for changing current policy and practices to encourage more of these community-centered schools. In some cases, schools are co-located with other facilities such as libraries. Sometimes, the school district and municipality take advantage of existing community resources to save taxpayer dollars and encourage more walkable neighborhoods. One example is found in Charlotte, North Carolina where a local school and library were co-located to better serve residents and to save on development costs.