Speaker an advocate for all walks of life
Lauds GJ as pedestrian-friendly city
Dan Burden is a big believer in the power of walking.
So much so the 69-year-old advocate and executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute has spent more than 35 years consulting upwards of 4,000 communities nationwide about the advantages of designing their streets and neighborhoods for the striding set.
“Everything is connected with walking,” Burden said minutes before delivering the keynote address Friday at the inaugural Walking and Biking Trails Summit at Two Rivers Convention Center. “Walking, as it turns out, is not only the key to all health — both individual health and community health — but to social health as well.”
The unique event brought together a wide range of folks connected with walking and biking trails — outdoors advocates, public lands officials, transportation professionals and municipal planners and engineers. Burden’s speech, and his longtime experience with doing “walking audits” of cities, was a bridge of sorts to get people thinking about new ways to design cities with walkers in mind.
“People now want to live in walkable communities. They want proximity, they want the social exchange that goes with that, they want the security that goes with that. They want all the benefits of living in a real town that walking can provide,” he said.
As someone who has worked previously with Grand Junction planners in the past — he performed one of his walking audits and held a number of workshops that led to pedestrian improvements along Seventh Street — he is impressed with how far the region has come when it comes to making streets friendly to walkers.
“I am truly in love with how the downtown is taking such great steps over time,” he said. “It is so important. The entertainment zone feels alive to me, and there are so many great shops.”
“And the Art on the Corner program is the best I have found in the nation,” Burden said. “It’s a total surprise — and that’s what the human eye and the human heart want.”
But the job of changing the thinking of cities and communities, who for a century have been designing downtowns and transportation systems with a focus on the automobile, is a difficult one. It’s one reason Time magazine named Burden “one of the six most important civic innovators in the world” in 2001.
“I would say the nation is in transition. We will never give up on the car, though some places will give up on it sooner,” he said. “We’re still car crazy in America, but many of our youth and now our seniors are choosing to give up their cars.”
That could mean real money, Burden told his audience Friday.
He posed the question of how much a person might expect, in terms of money saved and compounded over time, if someone decided to never get a car as a kid and instead put that money away until they turned 65.
His calculation? About $4 million.