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Walking audits across the state present opportunities for improvement

The American Planning Association Hawai‘i chapter, Hawai’i Public Health Institute, and the Hawai’i Department of Health teamed up to bring Mark Fenton, a national expert in built environment, to work with county planners and engineers across the state. We were thrilled to join Mark this week to evaluate walkability and other built environment considerations in Kaua‘i, Maui, and on the Big Island. 

In Kaua’i, Mark Fenton took a group of county employees, developers, and community groups to do a “walk audit” to assess the safety of the road and the accessibility of the road and sidewalks. We learned how roads can be improved to improve safety for all modes of transportation.

In Maui, we evaluated high-traffic areas around a shopping mall in Lahaina as well as residential areas. We found many areas where crosswalks were missing and discussed different traffic calming treatments that the county may want to consider. Lahaina is full of narrow roads, so we also discussed ideas for improving accessibility for all users where space is more of a challenge.

On the Big Island, we hosted an early morning walking meeting to introduce Fenton to the new Hilo Bayfront trail, which was in concept design when he lasted visited Hilo, and gain his feedback for improving walking and biking connectivity in Hilo.

Next, Fenton met with the director and key staff from Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works (DPW) along with Tina Clothier from PATH Hawai‘i for some frank dialogue on best practices and next steps for the built environment in Hawai‘i County. Fenton shared concepts and best practices used in other counties and led a discussion on how complete streets designs improve public health.

Key takeaways:

  • People will walk, run or bike on the easiest route. If you want to alleviate traffic — pedestrian or vehicular — provide better alternative routes;
  • Low cost solutions are available to calm streets and create walkable intersections; and
  • Creating trails near preexisting trails, such as Hilo Bayfront Trail did in phase one, is a win-win as it adds to the ambiance of the trail and there is no pushback over the cost of tree maintenance.

In summary, walk audits that bring together built environment experts, county/city planners and engineers, and public health partners are critically important in the effort to plan or redevelop communities where safe walking, cycling, and driving are the norm and not an afterthought.