Monday, June 19, 2023

Lansing's 15-Minute Neighborhoods

Not just sidewalks but also Places to go

Let's talk about 15-minute walkable cities, shall we? Picture this: cities where you have the option to reach all your daily needs within a leisurely 15-minute stroll. These cities are all about making life easier and more convenient for their residents. They're designed with a focus on walkability; to be walkable doesn't only mean being able to walk down a street safely, but includes having a place to go. As Joan Nelson said in the City Pulse, "it is certainly nice to have sidewalks, it’s even better to have sidewalks that take you somewhere."

In these neighborhoods and cities, you can bid farewell to long commutes and traffic nightmares. Want to grab a some pączki from that QD or Strange Matter down the street? No problem! Need to pick up groceries or grab a bite to eat? Just a short walk or roll away. The idea is to create vibrant neighborhoods where you have easy access to essentials like shops, schools, parks, and even entertainment venues—that are not locked behind a several thousand dollar paywall that requires a parking spot (ie, a personal vehicle).

Why am I driving to the corner store?

I grew up in an area where it was commonplace for my parent to give me a few bucks and empower me to walk to the grocery store to pick up eggs and Fresca (don't judge). I also walked to school and was able to take the bus to community college. I realize that where I live now, I wouldn't trust my child to do the same, because we live on a busy road without sidewalks.

Some areas of the world are very impressive: for example, researchers found that 100% of the citizens in Utrecht, the Netherlands can access nine basic needs—such as food, health care, education and sports within 15 minutes. 

I was curious if Lansing had any 15-minute neighborhoods. In Lansing, we have a patchwork of sidewalks and safe pedestrian paths throughout the city. For example, the awesome Lansing River Trail is getting longer and longer but due to the fact that it lacks a network, one bridge shutdown can cut the city in half for people on foot. We also have several highways cutting through the city (a couple highways which were purposely placed to provide access to white commuters while displacing Black and other minority residents) which interrupt the ability to otherwise reach destinations, creating car-dependency.

You can see that the city of Lansing has put a lot of effort into making downtown a walkable destination: with the addition of the new Meijer City Market, you can reach almost everything you'd want living downtown. That connectivity even extends into the Hosmer neighborhood due to sidewalks and safe roads.

Groesbeck and the northern Foster neighborhood also have a variety of amenities within walking range. (Notably, the part of Groesbeck that is in Lansing township is a 15-minute neighborhood, but only because residents can reach amenities inside Lansing proper.)

Meridian township has also done some work making a few parts of Okemos walkable.

West of MLK lacked walkable destinations. Edgemont Park used to have access to all the amenities in this algorithm, but in the last few years there have been several commercial closures, leaving residents dependent on a personal vehicle to access personal needs.

There were some surprises for me: for example there is one little street (Belaire Ave) on the south side that has access to a bunch of amenities. There's also one building in Delta Charter Township that has access to all of the amenities (it was an auto shop).

Some cities around the world are embracing this concept, transforming themselves into urban havens where you can truly live, work, and play without the hassle of long journeys. They understand that adding walkability as an option fosters a sense of belonging and encourages a more sustainable way of living. Lansing is at a turning point. We recently redid Pennsylvania Ave (removing crosswalks) and Downtown Lansing, (removing bike lanes). Ann Arbor, a city of comparable size, has been consistently near the top of walkability lists and recently added a whole slew of protected bike paths for residents. Which way will we go?

How Was This Visualization Created?

If you are curious about the methodology for this viz:

"Groceries" counted markets (like Don Pablos or Apple Market) and supermarkets (like Meijer or Aldi) but not corner stores or dollar stores.

"Parks" included green spaces that are officially parks (Hawk Island, Ferris) but also green space that was open to the public (Fenner, golf courses).

"Schools" included all elementary, secondary and post-sec schools, colleges and universities (such as LCC).

"Clinics" also included hospitals.

Walkshed was determined by paths, sidewalks and all roads with speed limits of 45 or less. 

A lot of information came from OpenStreetMap. Do you see an error? Maybe you want to become a contributor and make it better for the next person.

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