The Politics of a Walkable America

Walking has been a powerful tool of American politics for at least the past 100 years. Americans have walked (and wheelchair-rolled) to end wars, defeat segregation, gain access to the voting ballot and achieve countless victories toward a more perfect union. We walk to protest,...

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Walking has been a powerful tool of American politics for at least the past 100 years. Americans have walked (and wheelchair-rolled) to end wars, defeat segregation, gain access to the voting ballot and achieve countless victories toward a more perfect union. We walk to protest, boycott, parade, raise awareness, demand, unite and campaign, among other aims.

But walking/rolling is of course not just a political tool. It is the most basic of human activities that serves as a foundation of healthy living, a driver of social cohesion and neighborhood safety, and an affordable means of transportation.

At the 2017 National Walking Summit, sponsored by ACE and others, the educational sessions focused on a range of walking related topics, including examples of successful walking programs in a variety of environments and the connection between walkability (a measure of how friendly a community is to walking) and health equity.

Specifically, the summit reflected the idea that “walkability is at the cornerstone of creating desirable places in which all members of a community can enjoy safe opportunities for physical activity, social and civic engagement and access to jobs and other everyday needs.”  

The host organization, America Walks, also conveyed an implicit message about the politics of a walkable America: The act of walking/rolling is not only a means to a political end; but it is also an act that must be fought for and preserved as a political end.

Walkability requires political will from local policymakers to use public resources to further that goal. It means adding walkability projects to budgets and prioritizing walkability over other issues competing for public resources. The political will to make those decisions will materialize only in response to a loud and influential constituency.

At present, there is a “walkability movement” loosely forming in America. It may not yet be loud enough or influential enough to change our politics or the national landscape, but it’s steadily growing stronger and more passionate. It still needs community leaders, advocates and agitators—people who care about their community and the health of the people around them.

Ready to get involved? Start by checking out www.AmericaWalks.org.

If you get involved, please let us know what you’re doing to promote walking/walkability at [email protected]. We’d love to hear your story and share your efforts with our growing family of health and fitness professionals. You may just inspire the next person to stand up and fight for better health in their own community.

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