Group walking

Madelyn Trexler (fifth grade), teacher assistant Veronica Johnson, Sophie Johnson (second grade) and Claire Thurman (second grade) are among a group of Hardin Park students walking to school Oct. 4 as part of the Walk/Bike to School Day.

BOONE — For the first time in more than 10 years, the Boone Transportation Committee and the Alternative Transportation Subcommittee held a walk audit in five locations across Boone on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

“A walk audit is a tool used to assess the pedestrian and bicycle safety,” stated McKenzie Hellman, the health promotion program manager with AppHealthCare and transportation committee member. “This is normally comprised of a small group of people walking particular routes and accessing the built environment. Areas that are positive and allow pedestrians to feel safe, and areas for growth and improvement are recorded to provide data around the routes.”

The five walks covered the Hardin Park area, Levine Hall area, an area along Wilson Drive an N.C. 105, a loop of Blowing Rock Road, Leola Street and Meadowview Drive and Blowing Rock Road and Hardin Street from the N.C. 105 intersection to the U.S. 421 intersection.

The walk audit started at 7:30 a.m. with a loop around Hardin Park School using New Market Boulevard and U.S. 421.

“It was also National Walk to School Day, so there were lots of kiddos out and biking to school,” Hellman said.

The second walk came at 9:30 a.m. around Leon Levine Hall and State Farm and included several Appalachian State University and health department staff.

The last three walks all took place at 12 p.m. in different groups, led by route leaders.

Hellman said that along with committee members and staff from AppHealthCare, Boone-based pedestrian and bicyclists safety nonprofit Harmony Lanes took part in each of the walk audits.

“We took note of a lot of the infrastructure that there was or wasn’t there before,” Hellman said. “Throughout the routes, we noticed things specific to each route. For instance, at Hardin Park, it was mentioned there was a really positive police presence, which was noted in more than one of the surveys.”

Each of the walk audit participants filled out a walk-ability checklist and provided numerical values to questions in various categories. These categories included questions about ease of crossing the street, room for walking, driver behavior, ease of following safety rules and pleasantness of the walk, as well as open-ended questions.

Going forward, the data collected will be used in both a qualitative and quantitative way, Hellman said, to provide a snapshot of the particular routes and allow areas of need to be highlighted, as well as successes around walkability to be celebrated.

“Moving forward, the Boone Transportation Committee and the Alternative Transportation Subcommittee will be deciding how to best formalize this data, and use it to inform stakeholders and residents,” Hellman said.

The data will be presented to the Boone Transportation Committee in November, Hellman added, and the committee will decide how to use the data going forward.

“It’s important to highlight that this is really the first step,” Hellman said. “It’s not something that’ll answer everything, but it can get information out there about cyclists and empower folks to advocate for areas or celebrate areas that have been built up over the years.”

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