What exactly is walkability? Walkability measures a community’s ease in navigating a neighborhood via the use of sidewalks, street crossings, proximity to local businesses and resources as well as drivers’ response to walkers. Dallas Habitat has recently collaborated with a Ph.D. candidate for Urban Planning and Public Policy in the School of Urban and Public Affairs at the University of Texas Arlington, Dian Nostikasari, who has been conducting a walkability study in Oak Cliff Gardens as part of her dissertation. Her research focuses on how diverse understandings of people’s travel needs can contribute to an inclusive planning process and equitable outcomes, using the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Region as a case study. During her research assistant position at the Institute of Urban Studies, she has worked on team projects such as Parks Master Plan, Downtown Redevelopment Plan and Comprehensive Land Use Plan for various cities in the DFW Region.
For those of you unfamiliar with Oak Cliff Gardens, it is a neighborhood of Dallas south of downtown and wedged in between the Dallas VA Medical Center and Loop 12. According to Walk Score, the neighborhood of Oak Cliff Gardens has a walk score of 28, which means that the neighborhood is car-dependent and that most errands require a car. In an effort to learn more about the community’s needs, Dian has taken a grass roots approach to a very serious issue by attending the neighborhood’s crime watch meetings, and recruiting community members to identify problem areas and complete assessments of the neighborhood’s conditions. When Dian attended the first crime watching meeting in Oak Cliff Gardens, we had no clue how the community stakeholders would respond. Fortunately, they were and continue to be, incredibly supportive. Dian explained to members of the crime watch meeting that she would be completing all of the research and doing all of the “heavy lifting” per se, but that community stakeholders would be responsible for presenting the information at a City of Dallas Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) meeting.
Why is it important that the community members present the information? Their voices carry more weight than those of community partners, because community members actually live in the neighborhood in question. The next step will be to hold an event at a local grocery store, which is owned by the Aycocks, who are not only community stakeholders, but also Dallas Habitat homeowners. Dian has taken photos of the problem areas, but would also like for community members to provide additional feedback. One of the names we have tossed around for the event is “Sidewalks Saturday”, which will consist of placing a 24” x 36” map of the Oak Cliff Gardens neighborhood outside of the Aycock’s store. Community members will be asked to identify or confirm the portions of sidewalk that are in need of repair and locations that need the installation of sidewalks in addition to their organic traffic patterns. Dian will highlight those areas in her study and also in the materials she is preparing for the community stakeholders to present at the designated CDBG meeting. The event will also serve as an opportunity to invite Oak Cliff Gardens residents to the next crime watching meeting and gain more insight into how to best support neighborhood activities. Community engagement, however, must always involve some element of fun, which is why we are contemplating changing the event name to “Snow Cones & Sidewalks Saturday” in hopes that more community members will participate in our Sidewalks Presentation activity.
By now, you should be asking yourself, “What is my city’s walkability score and what is my neighborhood’s walk score?” You may not know what a walk score means, but you can definitely find out by visiting, www.walkscore.com. Or if you want to conduct your own evaluation, use the Walkability Checklist and learn how you can improve your community’s score.
For more information on Dallas Habitat’s work in Oak Cliff Gardens, visit the Oak Cliff Gardens Comprehensive Overview.