Building Safer Communities: Promoting Walkability

Public spaces are the epicentre of social activity, where people come together to connect, shop, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences these spaces with the same sense of safety and ease. Members of marginalised communities often face unique challenges, including higher rates of harassment, violence, and discrimination in public areas. Promoting walkability will help to combat this.


While it is not the job of marginalised people to police the behaviour of those guilty of causing the offence, It is our responsibility to be well-informed and help each other to navigate this space. We have pulled together our resources to provide you with a little advice on how to help promote walkability and safety in public areas and begin building safer communities. 


Understanding the challenges faced by marginalised groups


In order to promote walkability and safety effectively, it’s crucial to first understand the unique challenges that marginalised groups face in public spaces. Systemic inequalities and discrimination often intersect to create barriers that impact safety experiences for individuals from these communities.


Identifying specific safety concerns for different marginalised communities

Different marginalised groups may encounter distinct safety concerns based on their identities and backgrounds. For instance, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of colour, and individuals with disabilities may face heightened risks of harassment, discrimination, and violence while navigating public spaces but may not experience the attack in the same way. Understanding these specific challenges is key to tailoring how we approach promoting walkability and safety strategies in a supportive way effectively.


Social Factors that affect safety and walkability


Social, and economic factors impact promoting walkability in public spaces. Limited resources can heighten crime in low-income areas, disproportionately affecting marginalized groups. Tackling these issues is crucial for safer communities.

Systemic inequalities and discrimination affect safety perceptions. Acknowledging and challenging biases fosters inclusivity and equity for all.


The Role of Walkability in Ensuring Safety

When it comes to promoting walkability, the concept of safety plays a vital role in making public spaces more secure and welcoming for marginalised groups. Walkability refers to how easy and safe it is for pedestrians to navigate a neighbourhood or community on foot. When these areas are designed with safety in mind,  by providing a sense of security for everyone, especially those from marginalised communities.


Benefits of well-designed and pedestrian-friendly communities

The benefits of promoting walkability in communities extend far beyond convenience and aesthetics. For marginalised groups, these communities can be a game-changer, offering numerous advantages, such as:


Enhanced Safety: Well-lit and well-maintained pathways reduce the risk of accidents and criminal activity, providing a safer environment for pedestrians, including marginalised individuals.


Fostering Community Connections: promoting walkability in neighbourhoods often creates a stronger sense of community and belonging. As people walk more, they interact and look out for each other, resulting in a supportive and vigilant community that contributes to overall safety.


Ensuring Inclusivity: Walkability means easier access to essential services and amenities for those with mobility challenges or disabilities, fostering inclusivity and breaking down barriers to participation.


How walkability enhances safety for marginalised groups

Promoting walkability significantly impacts the safety of marginalised communities, who often face increased vulnerability in public spaces. Here’s how walkability directly contributes to their safety:


Reducing Isolation: Safe and well-connected sidewalks allow individuals from marginalised groups to access various areas without feeling isolated or confined to certain limited spaces. Our WalkSafe+ app provides this information in our handy crime map, allowing you to pre-plan your route and stay away from isolated areas.


Enhanced Visibility and Vigilance: Walkable communities provide more opportunities for natural surveillance, as more people are present on the streets. This heightened visibility acts as a deterrent to potential wrongdoers and enhances safety. The WalkSafe+ app allows you to create a safety community in our ‘trusted friends’ group alerting the group if you need assistance if walking about on your own. 


Empowerment and Independence: A safe walking environment empowers marginalised individuals to move freely and confidently, fostering a sense of autonomy and control over their own safety.


Research published in the Journal of Urban Health underscores the significance of walkability in curbing crime rates in communities. By incorporating walkability into urban planning and creating safer spaces, we take a step forward in fostering an inclusive and secure environment for everyone.


Personal Safety Strategies for Walking in Public Spaces

Now we have identified what promoting walkability is and how it impacts locally marginalised groups, we can now begin to implement strategies to improve walkability in urban areas. Here are our suggestions for helping build more safety precautions for the nighttime economy.


Using well-lit and busy routes: Well-lit areas offer better visibility, reducing the risk of potential threats lurking in the shadows. Busy routes with pedestrian traffic provide a sense of safety in numbers and are less attractive to potential wrongdoers.


Trusting instincts and leaving uncomfortable situations: Always trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy or uncomfortable in a particular situation or with someone you encounter, it’s essential to listen to your gut feelings. Don’t hesitate to change your route or seek assistance if needed.


Empowering fact: Research conducted suggests that people can make accurate judgments about dangerous situations quickly, and following those instincts can be vital for personal safety. So never ignore what your gut tells you!


De-escalation techniques: In the event of a confrontation or harassment, try to de-escalate the situation rather than engaging in a heated exchange. Use assertive communication and attempt to remove yourself from the situation calmly.


Seeking help from bystanders or security personnel: If you feel threatened or unsafe, don’t hesitate to seek help from nearby bystanders or security personnel. Drawing attention to the situation can often deter potential attackers and prompt others to step in and offer assistance.


Walksafe+ have done extensive work with Bradford to include initiatives like “Street Angels” to provide practical help for its users and the aim is to carry out more of these incentives nationwide to other cities and towns!


By incorporating these practical safety measures and utilising available technology, marginalised individuals can bolster their personal safety while navigating public spaces. In the upcoming sections, we will explore community-based safety initiatives and ways to foster a supportive and inclusive environment, ensuring that we collectively contribute to building safer communities for everyone.


Building a Supportive and Inclusive Community


To create safer communities for marginalised groups, fostering allyship is essential. Allyship involves individuals from non-marginalized backgrounds actively supporting and advocating for those who face discrimination and safety challenges in public spaces. Here are just a few ideas, we also have posted the different types of allyship on our socials, so feel free to go check them out for a refresh of your allyship:


Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about the experiences and struggles faced by marginalised groups. Engage in meaningful conversations, read literature, and listen to the perspectives of individuals from these communities.

Amplify Voices: Use your platform and privilege to amplify the voices of marginalised individuals. Share their stories, advocate for their rights, and stand with them in solidarity.

Speak Up and Take Action: If you witness discrimination, harassment, or violence, don’t stay silent. Speak up and intervene when it is safe to do so. Report incidents to relevant authorities and support those affected.


Promoting open dialogue and providing safe spaces for marginalised individuals to share their experiences is instrumental in building a stronger and safer community.


Consider the following when promoting walkability:

Community Forums and Workshops: Organise community forums, workshops, or support groups where individuals can openly discuss their safety concerns and share strategies for staying safe in public spaces.

Inclusive Events and Initiatives: Ensure that community events and initiatives actively include and engage marginalised groups. Create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Collaborate with Local Organisations: Partner with local organisations that advocate for the rights and safety of marginalised communities. Working together can amplify the impact of your collective efforts.

By fostering allyship, supporting victims, and creating safe spaces for open dialogue, we can build a supportive and inclusive community where everyone feels empowered and safe.


Recognizing Positive Changes in the Community

As we work towards promoting walkability in communities for marginalised groups, it is essential to recognize and celebrate the positive changes we achieve along the way. Acknowledging progress not only boosts morale but also inspires others to join in our efforts. Here are some ways to recognize positive changes:


Community Appreciation: Express gratitude to individuals, local authorities, and organisations who actively contribute to creating safer public spaces. A simple thank-you can go a long way in encouraging continued support.

Public Acknowledgment: Highlight successful safety initiatives and improvements in public forums, social media, and local news outlets. By sharing these achievements, we inspire others to get involved in community safety.

Sustainability: Ensure that safety initiatives and community engagement efforts are sustainable over time. Create a roadmap for continued improvement and commitment to promoting safety.

Collaboration and Networking: Strengthen partnerships with local authorities, community organisations, and safety experts. Collaborative efforts maximize resources and create lasting impact.


At Walksafe, we are continuously working on creating more integrations to the app and collaborating with local authorities and initiatives to create virtual and physical preventative measures to help support each individual using our app in starting or adapting their personal safety plan. Download our app below today.


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