Signs, festivities aim to get people walking in Charlotte

To be truly walkable, a neighborhood needs more than sidewalks and safe street crossings. Those are important, but an often overlooked factor is whether it has places to walk to, such as stores, coffee shops, schools and parks.

An event this weekend called Walk Your Neighborhood aims to show residents of six neighborhoods that—perhaps surprisingly to some in this auto-focused city—many destinations in the Plaza Midwood business district are within a short walk.

Starting Saturday morning, 40 signs will sprout throughout neighborhoods surrounding the Plaza-Central Central Avenue intersection, each sign noting how many minutes it takes to walk to popular destinations such as breweries, a park, antique shops, etc. In addition, 40 more clean-graffiti sidewalk images have gone down already.

The nonprofit group Sustain Charlotte and its Transportation Choices Alliance are behind the pilot project to encourage people who live near the business district along Central Avenue near The Plaza to walk more and drive less.

“We’ve seen that in other cities, if you provide wayfinding signs, people love them. People use them,” said Sustain Charlotte executive director Shannon Binns. “We think there will be people who maybe didn’t realize some of these places are within a 15- to 20-minute walk from their house.”

Walk Your Neighborhood is modeled on similar events held in other U.S. cities, a project launched in Raleigh in 2012 by then-graduate student Matt Tomasulo. Tomasulo simply posted signs in and near downtown Raleigh, pointing out that many destinations were well within walking distance. His idea hit the big time, and he launched the Walk [Your City] initiative, which offers a sign kit and ideas for how to plan an event. Greensboro, Atlantic Beach, N.C., and Raleigh’s North Hills neighborhood are among places that have sponsored Walk [Your City] events.

The Charlotte signs will point to a library, breweries, antique shops, yoga, a grocery store, a park, and other businesses in Plaza Midwood. The clean sidewalk graffiti, which are expected to last several months, are courtesy of The Savage Way marketing group. Project sponsor OrthoCarolina funded the initiative.

Events Saturday afternoon include games, refreshments, a raffle and discounts from businesses in the Plaza Midwood Merchants association. The festivities take place 2-5 p.m., starting at the Pizza Peel, 1600 Central Ave.

Getting more people to arrive on foot has all these economic, social and environmental benefits,” Binns said. People interact more with neighbors. Walking is good for health, and it helps limit air pollution from auto emissions. And, he pointed out, “Economically it’s an opportunity to save a little money. Walking’s free.”

A photo posted by Sustain Charlotte (@sustain_clt) on Nov 3, 2015 at 12:18pm PST