It started innocently enough with a Tweet. Jeff Speck, award-winning urban designer and author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time, tweeted an article about a reading club in the Texas city of Waco that took his book to heart and started a walking club. TWU Education Professor Dan Krutka enthusiastically retweeted with the offer “I am up to do this in #Denton with anyone interested.” Within a matter of hours, Krutka recounts on his blog, it became clear that there was a lot of local interest for the idea. Wednesday, March 1st is when Dr. Krutka and his group of merry walking Dentonites met at Jupiter House for their inaugural 5:30pm jaunt around the downtown Denton Square.
Speck’s “General Theory of Walkability” posits that, to be favored, a walk has to fulfill four core criteria: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. His larger argument is that Walkable Cities are happier, healthier, more desirable, and more sustainable when the culture prioritizes the pedestrian as a baseline for urban planning. Indeed, the oft-overlooked sidewalks that connect our communities, Speck suggests, “are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow." And it is very true that walking, just like bicycling, can reveal a far richer and deeply fascinating perspective upon places or spaces that we otherwise speed past in an automobile. Heck, it’s exactly this kind of urban moseying that has sparked many of our tales here about Offbeat Denton Oddities.
This idea may strike some in Denton as so obvious as to be common sense, given that our Denton Courthouse Square attracts throngs of people because of its easy ambling, but talk to someone over 40 and you quickly learn that it ain’t always been so downtown. Today Denton teeters near the Texas top 20 for walkability (ranked #23, Walkscore of 84 as Very Walkable), and this feeds our enviable cultural scene as well as nurturing one of America’s Greatest Main Streets (#3)… but we’ve still got a’ways to go when it comes to pedestrian safety and accessibility. Anyone who does any amount of walking, or maybe pushes a stroller or a wheelchair, can attest that Denton’s sidewalk infrastructure still needs a lot of attention.
All of which means first raising awareness, and what better way to do that than a community walkabout? Stay in touch with walk-organizer Dan Krutka at his Twitter account (@dankrutka) so you can tag along on the next walk. Better yet, make your own walking group for your neighborhood and help to make Denton a more walkable city! Join in the conversation as we continue the discussion, and be sure to tag all your pics of urban adventuring on Instagram and Twitter with #WDDI so we can follow you along!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.