Safe Routes Scoop

Senior Walkability in NJ:
Making Improvements One Step at a Time

NJDOT Addressing the Issues


As part of its senior pedestrian mobility safety initiative, NJDOT has undertaken a variety of steps to improve the pedestrian environment throughout the state. NJDOT strives to make facility improvements, supports education and enforcement efforts, and offers planning and technical guidance to communities seeking to improve walking conditions. Through the Senior Safety Pilot Program, NJDOT has implemented engineering improvements that help the senior population of drivers and pedestrians by utilizing enhanced signing, signal improvements (larger signal heads, timing modifications), lighting enhancements and enhanced striping/pavement markings.

 

NJDOT is currently sponsoring a senior walkability workshop series. The pilot workshop was held in October 2008 at the Madison Borough Senior Center where 24 participants, including the mayor, were in attendance. The workshop’s goal was to educate participants on the effects of aging and pedestrian design, illustrate how to audit the community’s built environment for senior walkability, and provide a forum to identify projects and policies that could improve senior mobility. It was geared toward professionals in the engineering, planning and health fields at the local and state levels, as well as others interested in encouraging a safe

walking environment in their communities. 

 

The agenda included presentations on the importance of walking, the physical and cognitive effects of aging, and how to engineer for seniors. The last part of the workshop focused on an observational walk followed by a facility and policy charette. During the observation walk, props such as wheelchairs, walkers and glasses that simulate various eye conditions were used so that participants, including local decision makers, can experience firsthand the obstacles that seniors must overcome everyday in their travels.

 

The success of the pilot workshop has led the Department to sponsor a full round of workshops in 2009. Thus far, workshops have been held on May 14 in Lincroft and on June 12 in Caldwell; six more will be held during the remainder of the year.

 

The senior walkability workshop provides many benefits for the host community. For one, it provides an opportunity to educate participants about the importance of walking and factors in the built environment that can either enhance or impair senior mobility.  The workshop also serves as a forum where critical connections can be made between the decision makers at the local, county, and state levels as well as stakeholders in the health and advocacy arenas. Most importantly, the charette at the

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