Walk This Way

Earth Day, this coming Monday, gives people a chance to reflect on reducing their ecological footprints through things like energy reduction and cutting on carbon emissions by riding transit or walking instead of driving.

The inclination to live in a community where everything is easily accessed using your own two feet is reflected by an increase in inner city residential prices, according to the Real Estate Investment Network.

“The city of Calgary has seen innercity neighbourhood real estate prices skyrocket in recent years as people become fed up with long commute times from outer suburbs,” REIN research analyst Allyssa Epp told the Calgary Herald. “Between 2000 and 2012, 10 communities that saw the largest spikes in average home prices were in the city’s core and surrounding neighbourhoods.”

The inner city edge comes at a time when the rest of the city is taking a bit of beating in terms of walkability. Calgary was dubbed the least walkable of Canada’s 10 largest cities in January by the U.S.-based company Walk Score.

“Sadly, through many years of building, we didn’t build walkable communities,” said Ward 7 Alderman Druh Farrell. She noted there are communities within the city that don’t have sidewalks on both sides of the street or trees lining the street.

“Those communities will always struggle to be walkable. But in the last year — it took decades to get this done — in the last year, we brought in residential street standards that require sidewalks on both sides of the streets and tree-lined sidewalks on both sides of the streets.”

Adopted in November 2012, the City’s Residential Street Design Policy balances the need for improved streetscapes with efficient use of land in new residential communities.

“Studies show that walkability improves health, it improves commerce, it improves community safety because people know their neighbours and people are out strolling,” said Farrell. “It’s not just for walking for recreation; its walking to do daily activities to fulfill daily needs.”

Of the Walk Score survey, Calgary’s top five walkable neighbourhoods, rated out of 100, are Chinatown (95), the Downtown Commercial Core (93), Cliff Bungalow (92), Eau Claire (91) and the Beltline (90).

“I get around everywhere with walking and it’s awesome,” said Cliff Bungalow resident Crystal Scriven. “I have everything I possibly need in (the Cliff Bungalow) community and in getting to and from everywhere it’s really easy.”

Scriven, who works as a flight attendant, doesn’t own a car but is able to get to and fro from work and within the city, utilizing transit and the Car2Go rental system. “I will say, being on the street I’m on in the winter, the sidewalks tend to be a little rough which is kind of normal, they don’t get cleared off or anything very regularly so when I’m pulling my luggage … I’ll be packing piles of snow along with my flight bag,” she said. “Outside of that it’s really easy, I go to the grocery store all the time, it takes me maybe five minutes, I’ve never had a problem not having a car.”

When looking to purchase a new home, walkability can mean different things to different people looking to live in any given community.

“When I look at what walkability means to me, it means something different to you,” said Becky Walters, CREB® president. “Walkability to my buyers means, ‘If I’ve got small children, is it walkable to a park, is it walkable to school, is it walkable quiet streets, can I wander and have my children outside to get to some place safe to play?’ so those kind of walkability scores aren’t necessarily what rate high on the scoring system nationally.”

While utilizing walkability to reduce your ecological footprint, you can also do the same within your home. CREB®’s Home Smarts program enables REALTORS® to include green features as part of a property search on MLS®.

Home Smarts covers everything from improved environmental sustainability, the lower operating costs of greener homes and how the increases desirability of greener homes can lead to higher home values.

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