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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Not Too Far to Walk!

Partner in the Spotlight: Walk [Your City]

The original Walk Raleigh signs, 2012.

The original Walk Raleigh signs, 2012.

When 27 wayfinding signs were placed in downtown Raleigh one night in January 2012, Matt Tomasulo sparked a walking revolution of sorts. Walk Raleigh, the campaign with signs that pointed out how few minutes it would take to walk to a given location, now has evolved into Walk [Your City] or WYC, with communities around North Carolina and the world launching such campaigns and shifting the way people think about getting around town.

Tomasulo, founder and chief instigator at WYC recently announced a partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) that will bring Walk [Your City] campaigns to three initial cities in North Carolina, including Raleigh. In each project community, WYC will work with city staff and residents to create wayfinding campaigns in five to six neighborhoods.

“There are a lot of corporate wellness programs out there,” Tomasulo said, “but this is a civic wellness program that BCBSNC is providing.” Overwhelming public support of the initial Walk Raleigh campaign the support of City of Raleigh planning staff, with inclusion of Walk [Your City] in its Jan. 2013 Comprehensive Pedestrian Plan, and international media coverage (including BBC News) helped pave the way for these new efforts. Tomasulo will announce the Raleigh neighborhoods and the other two cities soon.

Shifting Behaviors:  More Walkers

The mayor of Atlantic Beach participated in the Walk [Atlantic Beach] sign installation.

The mayor of Atlantic Beach participated in the Walk [Atlantic Beach] sign installation.

The W[YC] website features a few case studies, including the wayfinding installation in Midtown at Raleigh’s North Hills, an outdoor shopping center that is evolving into a mixed-use community with a a focus on walkability. Walk [North Hills] includes 93 signs in a four-block project capturing visitors as they go to different parking areas to provide information about the short walks, which could result in fewer internal driving trips in North Hills and have more visitors walking by the various shops.

“We have a huge opportunity to have a positive health impact while visitors enjoy the shops, restaurants and other amenities at North Hills”, said Bonner Gaylord, North Hills General Manager, Raleigh City Councilman and AHA Board Member. “The Walk [North Hills] campaign has been a really effective way to highlight that it’s quicker to walk from one place to another at North Hills than it is to drive.”

“What’s exciting about the North Hills campaign is that we’ve received lots of user feedback—people who have seen the signs and changed their behavior as a result. For example, someone may have gone to Harris Teeter, parked in the deck and then got back in the car to drive to Target or to the movies. Now they are walking instead. It is exciting that a fairly significant number of people have shared this with us and with North Hills staff,” Tomasulo said. “We’re presenting new information to shift the perception about how far destinations are to walk to. It’s exciting to hear first-hand feedback that behaviors did change from information on the signs.”

Community and Civic-minded Wellness

The WYC-BCBSNC partnership supports a movement where citizens, towns, developers and others are embracing walkability as part of their lifestyle and wellness efforts. The signs remind us all that it’s not too far to walk or bike. In fact, Walk Raleigh was part of the inspiration for AHA’s Roll or Stroll campaigns, which highlight how long it takes to walk or bike to a given destination. AHA looks forward to sharing more news about WYC and its role in improving walkability!


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