With obesity rates that are among the highest in the country -- more than 65 percent of adults and 38 percent of children are either obese or overweight -- the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ARCOP) works across the state to help make it easier for Arkansans to be physically active and to eat healthier. Creating more walkable streets and neighborhoods is a key part of the Coalition's strategy, since so many Arkansas communities lack sidewalks, connected streets and places to walk.
ARCOP requested assistance with training staff and their adjuncts to conduct community walking audits and build community consensus for walkability improvements. Once trained, facilitators would conduct assessments throughout the state to identify walking and bicycling barriers and remedies, and then would work with the appropriate level of government to remedy conditions.
ARCOP, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Walkable and Livable Communities Institute), designed a two-day capacity building workshop for ARCOP.
The two-day training was attended by more than 40 people who received instruction in performing walk audits, facilitating community walkability meetings and crafting a walkability plan for a neighborhood or corridor.
Walkable and Livable Communities Institute (WALC) developed the Walkability Workbook based on lessons learned planning and executing the ARCOP capacity training. The Workbook guides ARCOP's facilitators through the delivery of a walkability workshop. It includes an annotated PowerPoint presentation on the importance of walkability, common barriers to walking and a survey tool for assessing the built environment. Most importantly the capacity training and the resultant Workbook instructs facilitators on building community consensus on goals, priorities for action and obtaining stakeholder commitments to act.
The Coalition has conducted four walk audits in Arkansas communities, trained more than 25 community leaders in how to conduct audits, hosted five walkability summits and organized a 'train the trainer' course modeled on the WALC workshop in which 14 communities are participating.
In Little Rock, the Coalition trained UCP Cottages, which provides housing and services for people with disabilities, to conduce walking audits and advocate for infrastructure improvements on behalf of their residents.
In North Little Rock, Coalition members successfully advocated for a road diet on 42nd street, where it crosses over the Levy Trail, in order to slow vehicle speeds and increase safety trail users.
Little Rock implemented a road diet on South Main Street that added a bike lane to the street and removed a lane of vehicle traffic.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, secured a $100k Safe Routes to School grant to address four blocks of sidewalk gaps between South Harrison Street between 12th and 32nd Streets.
In 2015, Smart Growth America named Little Rock's Complete Streets Policy one of the best to be passed that year.