Going green: Pedestrian accessibility enhances urban vitality in Buffalo

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Going green: Pedestrian accessibility enhances urban vitality in Buffalo
Photograph © Ben Schumin

City planners have used the development of a new city zoning ordinance, the Green Code – to be adopted in the coming months – to reinvigorate planning for pedestrians in Buffalo. The Green Code encourages walkable design by increasing urban density and enhancing the attractiveness of streetscapes. By de-emphasizing automobile access and parking, reflecting the wishes of many residents during public outreach events, the Green Code promotes walkability, bicycle access and transit-oriented development.

Compact and walkable neighborhoods, from which residents can easily reach a variety of daily needs on foot, were a building block of Buffalo’s successes during the 20th century. Despite decades of population decline and disinvestment, key ingredients of those walkable places – neighborhood character, diversity of buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and street crossings – remain as vital components of Buffalo’s urban places.

To encourage more walking and less driving, public leaders, city officials and researchers throughout the United States first used environmentally motivated arguments to encourage people to walk more and drive less, since walking trips are energy-neutral and non-polluting. Recently, communitywide health benefits have influenced a shift toward walking, since “active” travel and exercise can improve individuals’ cardiovascular health and lower body mass indices while at the same time connecting people to communities. ….