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Walkability and Bikability Assessment

Officials and residents hoping to make their communities safer for walking and biking often need to study existing streets and neighborhoods to understand what to change. The Walkability and Bikability Suitability Assessment (WABSA) is a tool created by academics at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health that provides communities with a framework for evaluation of the built environment. It enumerates criteria for determining a given area.s level of walkability and bikability.

Hendersonville, North Carolina, is a small town of about 10,000 residents. In 1999, local nonprofit The Partnership for Health convened a task force of citizen volunteers to conduct a study using WABSA criteria in order to identify ways to make the town.s environment more conducive to active lifestyles. After undergoing a training session on the use of WABSA, the volunteers studied areas around the city, focusing on schools, business districts and points of intersection between streets and greenways.

The result of the study, which lasted one year, was a better understanding of the town.s environment and specific needs. The task force continues to exist as an advocacy group known as BiPeds, which works with the city to build sidewalks, improve roadways and develop better land use policies.