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Making Iowa Schools a Safe Walk Away

August 27, 2007

In Iowa, the daily school commute has returned, causing a major increase in traffic. City planners across the state are designing neighborhoods where kids can walk to school instead of relying on the family car. Iowa City Planner Karen Howard says her community has just passed a zoning ordinance to encourage developers to create more "walkable" neighborhoods.

"The ordinance creates shorter blocks, sidewalks along the streets, routes to school, routes to commercial areas. That makes it really attractive for people to walk."

Howard says this requires new thinking by city officials about what new neighborhoods should look like.

"Our streets are really to be thought of as valuable public open space. Spaces that the public uses, not just for driving, but for recreating, for meeting your neighbor, for walking to school, that sort of thing."

Howard says over the last 15 years, developers have been building homes on smaller and smaller lots. This often doesn't leave room along public streets for important public amenities, like trees and sidewalks that make it a livable neighborhood.

Dick Layman/Eric Mack, Public News Service - IA