University of Findlay Students Present Findings to City of Findlay
University of Findlay students completed walk audits in the city of Findlay and recently presented their findings to City of Findlay Mayor, Christina (Terry) Muryn ‘14. As part of a class project for their Ethics and Aging course, eight students, under the leadership of assistant professor in gerontology, Meredith Pitt, took to the streets armed with clipboards and worksheets, assessing the city’s walkability and safety using the AARP’s Walk Audit Tool Kit. The purpose of the walk audit was to determine how individuals, both ambulatory and non-ambulatory, can move from one point to the next safely. The project also focuses on understanding the concept of inclusivity of pedestrians who are moving around the city. The data was then presented to the Mayor on April 26th.
“For the most part, the area we walked had no sidewalks and partial sidewalks that just randomly ended,” said University of Findlay junior, Emma Grilli. “The parts that had no sidewalks were not really safe because there was not that much room between us and the cars, and since it had rained recently, it made it even more difficult to walk.” Grilli noted tripping hazards due to tree roots, and if the sidewalks were wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side.
Grilli was expecting to find at least 80% of the area she walked to have sidewalks on both sides but said, “that turned out not to be the case.” The importance of well-maintained sidewalks is important not just to the safety of the elderly and kids, but to the health of all residents. “Sidewalks help keep people walking more, keep people out of the road, and it’s a way for people to feel more motivated to get exercise and stay healthy,” she said.
Samantha Barnette completed her audit in another part of town, noting the condition of the sidewalks, the street crossings, as well as traffic flow and the timing of crossing lights. “We found that most of the area was in good condition, but there were some areas of concern,” Barnette said. “In the residential areas and on the secondary roads, there were no crossing signals or overhead traffic lights – only stop signs and sidewalks.” Barnette noted that there were no major concerns, describing some of the negative notations as “trivial things that could be improved.”
The students expressed an overwhelming amount of excitement and pride when asked about their ability to share their findings with Mayor Muryn. “It feels rewarding to know that we as a class helped start the movement that could potentially make the community more walkable and safer for all,” said Grilli. “I think the most important thing for individuals to realize is that overall, the community walkability and sidewalks were in good condition. This shows that Findlay is in a decent condition,” said Barnette.
“Data is knowledge and knowledge is power,” said Mayor Muryn. “Understanding what areas the city can improve with markings, signage, and lighting but also providing us information on what neighborhoods we many need to work with residents to improve sidewalks in.” Muryn was also thankful for the partnership between the University of Findlay and the city, not only to receive valuable data, but also to be able to provide the students with real life experiences and challenges that will eventually provide real life changes.
The data presented to Mayor Muryn will be taken into consideration and may be used to steer the direction of future improvement projects. “Currently, we are working to update our entire Geographic Information System (GIS) and we may choose to load some of this data into our system. This will be helpful as we try to put together neighborhood improvement plans for the entire city,” Muryn said.
Muryn encourages all citizens to take the time to notice areas for improvement within the city, and to submit them through the “Report a Problem” page. The University of Findlay students took the time to submit their report, and hope everyone sees the benefits of improving something as simple as a sidewalk. “Sidewalks are more than just something to look at, but rather they’re a way for people to travel safely and get exercise. Sidewalks can help communities come together, meet new people, and make the area more appealing to individuals of all ages that live in the area or are considering moving there,” said Grilli.