Walking in Walnut Creek
Due to its mild climate and relatively flat terrain, Walnut Creek is an ideal place for pedestrians. Walnut Creek residents and visitors enjoy access to a variety of destinations via sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities. In the context of a mobility plan, walking in Walnut Creek is vital for short trips and access to transit and other amenities that encourage transportation options other than single occupancy vehicles trips.
Key Focus Areas
Focus areas for pedestrian access in Walnut Creek include areas with concentrations of employment and transit. Pedestrian facilities can provide important first and last mile connections to these destinations, and reduce the need for automobile trips. Key focus areas include:
Downtown Walnut Creek’s relative density and comfortable pedestrian facilities make it an attractive destination for walking. This is reflected in the Walkscore® for Downtown Walnut Creek which is 90 or above (out of a total score of 100) for most areas of Downtown, meaning that most daily errands do not require a car to complete. Downtown includes many examples of facilities used to make walking more attractive for pedestrians, including well marked pedestrian crossings and traffic calming measures.
While the immediate Downtown area is attractive for pedestrians, access to the Downtown area from surrounding areas is not always ideal for pedestrians. This includes access from Walnut Creek BART (discussed more in the following section) and adjacent centers of employment such as the Kaiser medical campus. This is due to more limited pedestrian facilities and roads with high-volume traffic that pedestrians are forced to cross.
Walnut Creek BART
The Walnut Creek BART Station is a regional transit hub for both BART and buses. Its proximity to Downtown and nearby employment centers makes pedestrian access to the station especially important. The Walkscore® in the surrounding station area varies from “very walkable” to “walker’s paradise”, meaning that most errands can be accomplished on foot.
Once station users leave the immediate area, access to nearby destinations often involves walking along or crossing high-stress roadways with large volumes of vehicle traffic traveling at speeds greater than 25 miles per hour. These streets include many elements that make walking unattractive, including large curb cuts to allow vehicular access to parking, a lack of street trees, and limited opportunities for pedestrian crossings on certain large blocks.
Pedestrian access at major employers with dedicated campuses such as John Muir Medical Center, Kaiser, and Shadelands is mixed. Many of these campuses include comfortable pedestrian facilities within and immediately adjacent to the campus area itself, including a multi-use path that runs parallel to both John Muir and Kaiser medical centers. However, pedestrian access outside the campus area is mixed, limiting comfortable connections to nearby destinations and transit connections. In addition, the Walkscores® for these areas vary. Kaiser has a Walkscore of 70-80, meaning that most errands can be accomplished on foot. Both Shadelands and John Muir have significantly lower Walkscores, ranging from car-dependent to somewhat walkable.
Walnut Creek Pedestrian Master Plan
The Walnut Creek Pedestrian Master Plan provides a key framework that describes pedestrian infrastructure, accessibility, and programs throughout Walnut Creek. The Pedestrian Plan seeks to “provide safe, convenient, and well-maintained pedestrian facilities for all ages and abilities.” Relevant to goals related to mobility and sustainable transportation, the Plan recognizes the importance of creating a safe and attractive walking environment for vehicle trip reduction. This enables people to walk from their homes to transit connections, employment centers, commercial areas, and other destinations.
Downtown is a key focus area within the plan due to its role as a hub for employment, entertainment, transit, and other uses. Comfortable pedestrian facilities allow better connections from other modes of transportation, including transit and parking facilities for bicycles and cars. In addition to facilitating use of alternative modes, improving the pedestrian realm improves the livability of Downtown Walnut Creek, supporting businesses and building a sense of place.
Diversity of Pedestrian Conditions
Pedestrian conditions vary considerably across Walnut Creek, including dedicated facilities such as the Iron Horse Trail, residential areas with low traffic volumes, and crosswalks and sidewalks adjacent to major arterials. Furthermore, depending on where you live and work within Walnut Creek, you may or may not be able to walk to a grocery store, cafe, or shop. While Downtown has a high Walkscore®, the city’s overall walkscore is only 39 out of 100, meaning that most errands require a car.
High Pedestrian Demand
Areas of high pedestrian demand include the Downtown area, pedestrian facilities immediately adjacent to large commercial centers, and the area immediately surrounding the Walnut Creek BART station.
Due to the presence of multiple transit providers in the city, many transit stops are easily accessible via a short walk in most areas of Walnut Creek. The actual conditions and comfort of these connections for pedestrians, however, can vary greatly across the City, limiting access and potentially discouraging walking to and using transit.
Recommended Pedestrian Improvements
Improvements proposed by the plan generally focus on pedestrian comfort and safety, including:
the availability of direct links to key destinations via comfortable pedestrian facilities
better design of crossings at major intersections and other interventions can improve safety for pedestrians
providing well designed lighting can improve safety and comfort for pedestrians
landscaping that provides shade, wayfinding, and other elements can improve pedestrian experience and comfort
Needs, Challenges, and Opportunities
Walnut Creek’s climate, geography, and policies create the potential for an excellent pedestrian environment. The mixed availability of comfortable pedestrian facilities and direct routes in some areas, limits connectivity and access, drawing attention to potential needs and improvements across the city considerations for Rethinking Mobility. The following are considerations for Rethinking Mobility.
Prioritization of Improvements within the Context of Other Mobility Strategies
The incorporation of other recent planning documents, including modal plans, support development of a “layered” network in which walking is key to access to a variety of mobility options and destination within Walnut Creek.
Improvements Needed for Key Connections
Walking between Walnut Creek and Downtown is an uncomfortable experience, signaling the need for prioritizing improvements to pedestrian facilities in this area.
New Development in Key Areas
New development within the city’s Core Area provide opportunities for the city to work with developers to improve pedestrian connections between new and existing land uses.