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Arlington levels up to highest tier of ‘Walk Friendly Communities’

Walking a dog in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New York City. Portland. San Francisco. Seattle. And now Arlington.

Arlington County just joined the highest level “Walk Friendly Communities.” After previously becoming one of 15 U.S. communities to reach the program’s gold level, Arlington is now one of five at the platinum level.

More from a county press release:

According to WFC, the designation reflects Arlington’s success “in transit-oriented planning, remarkable promotion and outreach, and educational offerings for staff and residents.” It’s the first time the County has achieved platinum-level status from WFC after receiving a gold-level rating in 2010 and once again in 2015.

“Being recognized with a platinum rating by Walk Friendly Communities highlights Arlington’s ongoing commitment to increasing walkability throughout our neighborhoods,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “We are committed, through many infrastructure projects and County-wide initiatives, to continuing to make walking a viable, enjoyable and safe way for both residents and visitors to get around Arlington.”

Arlington has 527 miles of sidewalks, more than 50 miles of paved, multi-use trails and 14.5 miles of hiking/natural trails. The County’s acclaimed multimodal Master Transportation Plan makes its Pedestrian Element a key feature in integrating growth around public transit lines, with special emphasis on sidewalks and multi-use trails.

Among its transportation outreach services, the County’s WalkArlington program offers abundant resources and events to encourage foot travel as a sustainable, healthy way to commute around and explore Arlington. One such effort is the more than two dozen highly detailed Walkabout map tours developed for discovering Arlington’s mix of neighborhoods as well as their unique features and histories.

In addition, an all-volunteer Pedestrian Advisory Committee helps County leadership and transportation planners visualize and achieve a more walkable Arlington through policy and infrastructure changes–from the busiest urban corridors to charming residential greenways.

An examination of the continued challenges faced by pedestrians is among the key components of Vision Zero, the County’s major transportation safety initiative to ensure that everyone traveling across Arlington arrives safely to their destination. In the first year of Vision Zero, almost 240 crosswalks were updated to display high visibility markings while speed limit zones around 13 schools were reduced to 20 miles per hour to protect walkers.

Four people died in crashes in 2021, the first year of Vision Zero. None of the fatal crashes involved a bicyclist or pedestrian.

While apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult given changes in driving and commuting patterns during the pandemic, Arlington has seen a decline in crashes — including those involving pedestrians and cyclists — from pre-pandemic levels.

The Walk Friendly Communities program is run out of the University of North Carolina and recognizes places that have “shown a commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans, and policies.”

“Managed by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC), the program distinguishes communities leading the way in walkability and seeks to share their stories to inspire other communities to move toward their own innovative solutions,” the program website notes.

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