Time to Walk the Talk

Guest Correspondence


We welcomed acclaimed city planner Jeff Speck last week to downtown Sarasota, to well, just walk around. Speck is to America’s downtowns what Dr. Beach is to America’s beaches. While Dr. Beach rates sand quality, Speck rates communities on their walkability.

Following Mr. Speck’s walk, we had a talk.

Speck concluded Sarasota is doing pretty well and is more walkable compared to most places. Before leaving, Speck also shared his ideas on how to do even better as written in his excellent new book, Walkable City Rules.

Walking is something we take for granted, but why not embrace it, why not plan and build for it? Walking is very good for one’s health, it doesn’t pollute, and it’s free.

According to Speck, great walkable places have three basic tenets: they should be safe, comfortable and interesting.

But to be great walkable community, we have to slow cars down, buffer our sidewalks and bike lanes, and provide shade, rest areas and quality destinations within walking distance.

Is it worth it?

Well, evidence abounds that walkable communities are not only safer, but they enhance property values, attract talent and help create more and better jobs.

But my favorite benefits of walkable communities are that they allow children more early independence and even better, walkable neighborhoods can give the elderly a new lease on life.

Sarasota is all in when it comes to building better places through building walkable, bikeable neighborhoods, including downtown.

As you begin to see the changes in the years ahead that’s what we are up to and why we’re doing it.

In the meantime, come on downtown and walk around. We would love to hear your ideas on how to become Florida’s most walkable community.

Please feel free to email me at Thomas.barwin@sarasotafl.gov

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager.

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