During the development of Mobility 2040, we heard from many people about walkability, sidewalks, pedestrians, greenways, and connectivity. Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking. A pedestrian is someone traveling by foot, or a mobility impaired person using a wheelchair or other aid.

[dt_fancy_separator separator_style=”thick” separator_color=”accent” el_width=”25″]

What We Heard

Having sidewalks and places to walk is extremely important when choosing a new place to live.53%
Not enough sidewalks where they currently live. `{`1`}`66%
Not enough shops or restaurants within an easy walk of their house `{`1`}`58%
Improving or adding sidewalks in neighborhoods is extremely important . `{`2`}`41%
Building sidewalks, greenways and bike lanes is a high priority. 40%
Want to walk around their neighborhood/community. `{`4`}`78%
Want to walk around the region for work/school/errands. `{`4`}`54%
No sidewalks as the reason they can’t currently reach daily destinations57%
Lack of sidewalks, greenways and bike lanes is our region’s biggest challenge. 20%
Sidewalks, greenways and bicycle facilities should receive the most transportation funding73%

Sidewalks, Greenways and Bicycle Lanes

When asked to rank the types of projects, sidewalks, greenways and bicycle lanes were number one. Followed by: 2) Maintenance of Roads and Bridges, and 3) Technology to improve traffic flow. [3]


How the Mobility Plan Addresses Walkability

Many elements of Mobility Plan 2040 address the issue of walkability.

  • The “centers and corridors” growth plan concept is key – helping create different sized centers throughout the region means that more destinations, like corner stores, will be within walking distance of more residents.
  • The existing pedestrian and greenway facilities are discussed on pp 28-30.
  • Many of the plan’s goals related to walkability:
  • The project selection criteria included weighting that acknowledges the importance of transportation options like walking.
  • The pedestrian projects are listed in the Appendix Table E2 (link). Most road projects will also include sidewalks because of the bicycle and pedestrian accommodation policy followed by the TPO and TDOT’s Multimodal Access Policy.
  • Hyperlink under “bicycle and pedestrian accommodation policy to p 17 (22 of the pdf) of http://www.ibikeknx.com/Portals/0/PDFs/bikeplan2002.pdf

Why is Walkability Important?


Walking is a great way for people to increase their physical activity. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in the United States and major contributors to years lived with a disability.[5] People who are physically active have about a 30% lower risk of early death than people who are inactive.[6] Even low amounts of physical activity reduce this risk.

Walking is essential to every other mode of transportation. Even when people drive, bike or take public transit, walking is a part of those trips.


30% of people in Tennessee don’t have a driver’s license. There are many reasons – because they are younger than 16, too old to safely drive, have a disability, or can’t afford a car. 11.6% of U.S. adults aged 18-64 years reported a disability, ranging from vision-related disabilities to mobility-related disabilities.[7] How do these people get to the store, church, doctor’s appointments, work, or friends’ houses?


After housing, transportation is the second largest expense for the average American household—exceeding food, education, recreation, and health care.


Walking and pedestrian safety is as much, if not more important in rural communities. The risk of fatalities is high due to high speeds, no paved shoulders or sidewalks, and no crossings. Walking provides transportation independence in rural communities.

Quality of Life

20% or more of morning traffic is the child-school commute, most of it less than 2 miles in length.

What Makes a Place Walkable?

There are three key ingredients:

  • Can you physically get there? Is there a safe way to walk? Depending on the context, this could be a sidewalk, a greenway (e.g. trail, path), or a paved shoulder.
  • Is there somewhere to go? This could be your workplace, school, a store, a friend’s house, a park, or the bus stop.
  • How far is it? There are plenty of destinations but are they close enough for you to walk? Between a quarter-mile and half-mile is considered walking distance.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Guide to Developing Pedestrian-Friendly Communities
    This guide explains how public policy is made in your community and introduces you to the local officials who design and maintain your neighborhoods and communities.
  • Recode Knoxville
    The City of Knoxville’s zoning ordinance hasn’t been significantly changed in half a century. Recode Knoxville is a process to adopt modern standards that will support continued development and redevelopment of the City in a way that uses resources efficiently and builds a strong, sustainable, walkable community.
  • Walkability Ordinance
    The draft ordinance is a comprehensive policy for the City of Knoxville and Knox County that would set requirements for walkability and pedestrian facilities associated with new development and redevelopment. In order to be adopted, the ordinance will need to be approved by the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission, and then would proceed to City Council and County Commission for approval.
  • Bike Walk Knoxville
    BWK is a community driven, non-profit organization working to create safe streets and vibrant communities in the Knoxville region. They promote bicycling and walking as mainstream and enjoyable forms of transportation and recreation.
  • Walkability Speaker Series
    This speaker series brings national experts to Knoxville to speak to the public, design and transportation professionals, and elected officials on various topics relating to walkability. You can see videos of past events and find out about upcoming events from East Tennessee Quality Growth.
  • You can sign up to stay in the loop with monthly e-newsletters from the TPO.


[1] The University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work conducted a statistically valid telephone survey in Spring 2012, with a total of 2,000 respondents from Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union Counties.

[2] The University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work conducted a statistically valid telephone survey in Fall 2012, with a total of 2,000 respondents from Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Union Counties.

[3] A survey about project selection criteria and regional priorities was available February – July 2016 and had nearly 600 responses.

[4] A survey in 2017 on regional priorities and barriers to travel had more than 350 responses.

[5] U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of U.S. health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA. 2013;310(6): 591-608.

[6] Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, 2008. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2008

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: disability and physical activity — United States, 2009-2012. MMWR Morbid Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(18):407-413.