Carlisle named a ‘walker’s paradise’

From The Sentinel:

Aubrey Rehm honestly could not ask for a better place to live.

The 23-year-old, who calls downtown Carlisle home, said she finds herself walking just about everywhere since she does not own a car.

“Everything’s right in town,” Rehm said. “You can go everywhere.”

And because of that convenience factor, Rehm said, she agrees wholeheartedly that Carlisle is a “walker’s paradise.”

According to the website, which grades communities on their level of walkability, Carlisle is one of the most walkable communities in the nation, which is what earned the borough the “walker’s paradise” title.

The site uses a formula based on population clustering and nearby amenities to give communities a score of up to 100 points.

At the heart of downtown, at the intersection of High and Hanover streets, Carlisle scores a perfect 100.

“I think it’s an extremely accurate statement,” Carlisle Borough Manager Steve Hietsch said of calling Carlisle a walker’s paradise. “You won’t find too many communities that score better than Carlisle.”

Hietsch said he has checked out before and was pleased with how high Carlisle scored.

“Our walkability is something we’re very conscious of,” Hietsch said. “It’s something we’re proud of.

“It makes for a higher quality of life when you don‘t have to get in your automobile to go every single place.”

Hietsch, who lives in the historic district, said he often will walk the two blocks from his home to his office. He also feels very comfortable with having his children walk to things in the borough, adding they have been walking to school by themselves since they were very young.

“I think it’s something that the communities got away from for decades with the development of suburbs and people moving out of the town centers,” Hietsch said. “I think people lost sight of the advantages of it. But now, we’re definitely seeing a resurgence of it.”

He thinks the growing awareness and attention to factors such as the nationwide obesity epidemic, threatening gasoline prices and the impact automobiles have on the environment are all helping bring the ideal of walkability back to the forefront in communities.

However, with today’s on-the-go society, many people simply feel they do not have the time to walk instead of drive.

“I think a lot of people do (walk), but I still think there’s people that do not recognize the benefit of it,” Hietsch said.

Sidewalks and safety

Rick Trimble and Ismeta Vresk, both of Carlisle, took advantage of downtown’s walkability Thursday evening. They leisurely strolled through town after eating dinner, looking at decorations in the front window displays.

Trimble said he believes the downtown area has really improved throughout the past couple of years, noting both the appearance and safety.

“The sidewalks are much better,” he said. “Safe and clean.”

Hietsch said the borough tries to keep pedestrian safety at the forefront of everything it does downtown.

“As far as pedestrian and vehicle conflicts, we’re set up very well to avoid those,” Hietsch said, pointing out the 58 miles of streets in the borough are all lined with sidewalks on both sides. In addition, Hietsch said, there are 40 traffic signals at intersections throughout Carlisle and each one has a pedestrian signal.

Carlisle is also a relatively safe place to walk when considering the crime aspect, Hietsch said, noting the recent symposium at Dickinson College, where statistics were presented showing Carlisle is a very safe community.

The much-anticipated road diet is another initiative to help create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, especially for residents who bike – which Hietsch said he believes is another important factor in communities these days.

However, the road diet, which will create even better sidewalk conditions and fewer traffic lanes, most likely won’t affect Carlisle’s WalkScore, since it is based largely on the prevalence of amenities.

Still, the conditions for walking in a community are just as important when determining walkability.

“I certainly feel confident that (the road diet) will make for a more walkable community,” Hietsch said.

Rehm said the only thing she could think of that would make Carlisle even more pedestrian-friendly is improvements to the sidewalks for the disabled.

She has heard complaints from people she sees on the streets in wheelchairs who wish the transitions from the street corners to the actual roads were smoother.