More Feet on the Street

More Feet on the Street

The Walk [Your City] initiative encourages Durhamites to enjoy downtown as pedestrians.

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Matt Tomasulo, Walk [Your City] founder and chief instigator, explains the Walk [Durham] project.
Matt Tomasulo, Walk [Your City] founder and chief instigator, explains the Walk [Durham] project.
It’s easy to jump in your car for a short drive through downtown without a second thought. But if a sign saying your destination was a two-minute walk away caught your eye, you might just leave the car in park.

That’s the goal of Walk [Your City], a Raleigh-based initiative that’s making its mark on the Bull City.

“We are all on-the-go and often forget that our destination may be only steps away,” says Kim Blair, director of community relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which supports the initiative. “Realizing you can take a short walk, rather than hop into the car in Durham and Raleigh, is one way we can help our neighbors make healthier choices about how they get around.”

The idea is simple. Walk [Your City] team members, city staff and community members work together to pick the best locations for “street signs for people.” Each sign displays a straightforward message informing passersby how far away popular destinations are, whether it’s a 15-minute walk to a beautiful jogging track or a 2-minute walk to drinks or cupcakes.

Why minutes? 41% of vehicle trips made in the United States are one mile or less, and Walk [Your City]’s thinking is that this is because of many people’s mistaken perception that their destination is too far to walk. By using a system of measurement that people can easily conceptualize, Walk [Your City] hopes to help Durhamites set off on foot more frequently.

The signs also have QR codes walkers can scan with their smartphones to access walking or biking directions to their destination, making it even easier to enjoy everything downtown has to offer without starting the car.

Downtown Durham Inc. President Geoff Durham says the initiative will be healthy for business as well.

“During downtown’s rapid growth, the pedestrian has become increasingly valuable to reducing road congestion and providing drop-in customers for our businesses,” he says. “These signs are a great way to inform and encourage people to park once and enjoy their time in downtown Durham on foot.”

Look for the first round of Durham signs on West Main Street, Hunt Street, East Chapel Hill Street, East Parrish Street and West Pettigrew Street, and keep an eye out for three more waves to come. For more information, click here.

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Rachel Herzog is an intern for Durham Magazine and Chapel Hill Magazine. She grew up in southern Maryland and is attending UNC-Chapel Hill as a journalism major. You can catch her running the trails and sidewalks of Chapel Hill or enjoying lunch at Mediterranean Deli.