Taking a walk on the safe side: Harmony Lanes and AppHealthCare push for more sidewalks in Boone

Emily Broyles, Reporter

As sidewalks are only in a few areas throughout Boone, bikers and pedestrians sometimes feel unsafe when walking on regular roads. Through walk audits and advocacy, Harmony Lanes and AppHealthCare are ensuring safe and sustainable transportation in Boone.

Walk audits usually consist of small groups of people who document areas for growth and improvement on certain routes.

“Safe, comfortable, inclusive and widely networked sidewalks and greenways benefit our community’s overall health and economy at so many levels,” Jon Wells, a lab technician at App State and Harmony Lanes board member, wrote in an email. “Commuters, tourists, exercisers, shoppers, young, old, fit, disabled will all benefit from living in a walkable community.”

Harmony Lanes is a nonprofit set on improving multimodal transportation in the Boone community.

Harmony Lanes and AppHealthCare recently hosted walk audits around the Town of Boone on  pedestrian and cycle safety near roads. The Boone Transportation Committee voted in favor of the walk audits.

The walk audits were conducted on routes within town limits. Data recorded from the walk audits, including notes and photos from surveyors, “will help celebrate the successes in infrastructure that the Town of Boone has been a part of the past few years” and “highlight areas that may need improvements,” said Mckenzie Hellman, health promotion program manager at AppHealthCare.

“The walk audits completed Oct. 2 will hopefully be the first step in helping inform leadership and community members areas for growth and improvements,” Hellman wrote in an email.

Hellman wrote that pedestrian and cycle safety is a systemic public health issue, and public health departments and agencies should care about walkability, as it advocates for health equity and access.

The walk audits focused on resident health benefits, but also highlight one of App State’s initiatives: sustainability.

“A walkable town opens up opportunities for students to exercise, explore, shop, socialize without the need of a car or public transportation,” Wells wrote. “ASU looks at sustainability as an ‘educational imperative,’ and there’s nothing more sustainable than walking, or biking, everywhere students need to go on campus and around town.”

Studying abroad from Japan, Takahiro Omor is interested in city planning and sustainability. The second-year graduate student majoring in Appalachian Studies participated in the audit and said multimodal transportation is important for elementary and college students alike, along with residents who may want to bike or walk in town.

“I love biking and think (in) Boone, or maybe USA in general, it’s hard to bike and walk because there’s not much transportation (similar to) Tokyo,” Omori said. “I think it’s good to have multimodal transportation toward sustainability and also your health.”