Parks on the clock: why we believe in the 10-minute walk
What can you get done in 10 minutes? Maybe a few quick chores, like folding the laundry or tidying up in the garage. You could read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to finish or—let’s be honest—get to the bottom of your Facebook feed.
But what The Trust for Public Land wants to know is: could you walk to the park?
Even if you love getting outside, you know there's a big difference between a park down the street and one across town. If a trip to the park means waiting for the bus—or packing the family into the car and sitting in traffic—all those other options start to sound more appealing. But having green space in the neighborhood opens up possibilities: a quick jog before work, a picnic lunch break, or even sending older kids out to play on their own after school.
For park planners, that convenience factor matters. Easy access to green space contributes to the quality of life that's key to cities attracting and keeping residents and businesses. Plus, it's a public health issue: research has shown that people who regularly use parks get more and better exercise than people who don’t. A park close by can improve the well-being of everyone from a child managing ADHD to a senior recovering from hip surgery.
So how close is close enough? Most large cities—70 of the biggest 100, by our last count—set a standard by distance; of those, 61 percent define "close" as within a half-mile. In our experience building parks around the country, we've found that makes sense—so long as we're talking a half-mile on public roads and pathways. (A great park a hundred yards away doesn't do you much good if those hundred yards cross private property or a busy freeway.)
Though walking speeds vary, the Department of Transportation agrees that most people can walk a half-mile in about 10 minutes. At The Trust for Public Land, we believe everyone should be able to reach a park in that amount of time—no matter what kind of neighborhood you live in. That's why we're helping cities prioritize creating and improving parks in the places that need them most.
If you're curious to see how well your city meets the 10-minute mark, check out The Trust for Public Land's Parkscore® index.