Walk to Get Your Groceries challenge highlights importance of walkability

An American organisation is trying to reshape the way people feel about their trips to the supermarket – and all of their trips, in fact. Strong Towns, an environmental and urban planning nonprofit, has announced the first segment of its Strong Citizens Challenge, a set of missions that aim to increase awareness and change the way people interact with their towns and communities.

According to Strong Towns board member Andrew Burleson, the Strong Citizens Challenge will summon people to try new things that may ultimately make their communities closer and more sustainable.

"We want to give you a long list of things you can do, experiences you can have that will allow you to see differently the way you live," Mr Burleson told Grist, an environmental news blog. "They boil down to really simple things that anyone can do with no resources and no permission. Some of them may become lifestyle changes or change the way you think."

The first challenge? Walk to Get Your Groceries.

What does walking to the supermarket have to do with sustainability?

A lot, in fact. People who live in historic city centres and walkable communities can usually choose their transportation methods, but for people who live in modern homes, there aren't a lot of options. Many Strong Towns members have already attempted the challenge, only to find that their communities are designed in a way that makes it nearly impossible (or extremely unpleasant) to carry out everyday tasks on foot or bike.

"I've decided to take the Strong Citizen's Challenge of walking to the grocery store from my neighborhood," Vince Tate wrote on his blog Ponder the City. "It's a simple way for me to convey the difficulty that not just I experience trying to walk to the grocery store but the burden that is placed on kids, family members, and seniors who have no access to cars."

It's not always possible to stroll to the corner store, throw your groceries in a reusable bag, and return home in an enjoyable and safe way. People often encounter a lack of pedestrian walkways, difficulty crossing roads designed only for car use, nonexistent proximity to stores and dangerous walking conditions near high-speed roadways – problems that rarely existed prior to automobile dependence.

Walkability in Australia

If you're looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint and gain some independence from your own car, you may want to consider walkability when choosing your community. Walkscore.com compiled a list of Australia's most walkable communities. Unsurprisingly, Sydney and Melbourne topped the list, with Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth trailing behind. Within Sydney, the most walkable neighbourhoods were Haymarket and The Rocks. In Melbourne, Carlton and Fitzroy proved to be the most walkable.