Matt Tomasulo, Student ASLA, Graduate, North Carolina State University
Faculty Advisor: Thomas Campanella
Walk Raleigh started as a group of 27 unsanctioned signs installed at 3 different intersections around downtown Raleigh. The signs include an arrow, destination, color, QR code and text stating how many “minutes by foot” it is to walk to said destination. Since installation, WalkRaleigh received national & international attention for it’s civic engagement tactics and outcome. Raleigh’s City Council unanimously approved Walk Raleigh as a pilot education program promoting a healthy and safe pedestrian environment.
Walk Raleigh is intended to share how far it is to walk places in minutes by foot versus miles by car throughout Raleigh. We have found that one of the greatest obstacles with walking in Raleigh is actually public perception, which we hope to positively influence through our Walk Raleigh wayfinding campaign.
Walk Raleigh started as a group of 27 unsanctioned signs installed at 3 different intersections around downtown Raleigh. The signs are basic; they include an arrow, general destination, color, QR code and text stating how many minutes by foot it is to walk to said destination (the destinations are made up of commercial areas, civic landmarks and public open space). Since installation of the signs, Walk Raleigh has received attention from near and far for its simplicity and civic engagement.
Over the past 4 months, Walk Raleigh attracted local, national and international attention, appearing on The Atlantic, NPR and The BBC (among other media outlets). The wide range of media exposure generated many inquiries about adapting and producing this campaign elsewhere.
Walk Raleigh is intended for the City of Raleigh, visitors to Raleigh, and Raleigh citizens alike. The signs are positioned on traffic light poles at 3 intersections that target 3 different demographics of Raleigh citizens – students (next to the university), shoppers (next to the only grocery store near downtown), workers (in the heart of the central commercial district). The signs are large enough and simple enough to be read if walking as a pedestrian or sitting in a car at the stoplight.
It is really not that far to walk to places in Raleigh. Due to gaps and voids in the downtown grid, perceived distances from district to district in downtown Raleigh can, many times, seem exaggerated and insurmountable. We have become accustomed to driving and parking, and sometimes don’t consider walking as an option. These signs include simple information that positively influences the current perception about distance to and from places in Raleigh.
Impact & Effectiveness
Walk Raleigh attracted local, national and international attention, appearing on The Atlantic, NPR and The BBC (among other media outlets). The wide range of media exposure generated many inquiries about adapting and producing this campaign elsewhere. When the city took the signs down to do legality issues, citizens were appalled and spoke out. They helped instigate the City Planning office to reconsider the project and help present it to City Council as a pilot educational project for the city in conjunction with the Raleigh 2030 comprehensive plan. After running a 3 day digital petition to “Restore Walk Raleigh”, we received 1255 digital signatures, helping gain unanimous approval from City Council on March 6th.
In addition to the local support and adoption, the campaign has triggered global support and demand to scale the project, making it accessible for more cities and citizens to bring it to their town or city. With the national and international interests in mind, Walk [Your City] was launched via Kickstarter on March 28th and raised $11,364 to help develop a fully accessible online platform for anyone to create their own walking campaign in their city.
A full walking (and biking) network is currently under development to help guide and facilitate the 12+ cities that are now in the process of adopting the campaign.
Additionally, Walk Raleigh’s success earned Unnamed Student the state-wide distinction of “Tar Heel of the Week” on March 25th.
Corrugated plastic signs printed with a vinyl decal were installed by 3 individuals in about an hour on the night of January 17, unsanctioned by the city. The signs are affixed to the street light poles with industrial zip ties to be as harmless to the city infrastructure as possible. In addition to the physical sign campaign, a Facebook page and Twitter account provided a platform for the community to start a dialogue with feedback, interaction, and facilitated easy sharing of the project.
27 signs, 3 intersections
BBC — Most watched video in U.S. the day it aired (Top 3 following weekend)
1100+ likes in 4 months
330+ Twitter Followers
5 National invitations to speak about the project
Associated Press coverage — Picked up by Huffington Post, Washington Post, etc.
1255 digital signatures supporting Walk Raleigh Restoration (over 3 days)
7 votes from 7 city councilors (and the mayor) unanimously adopting Walk Raleigh as a pilot educational program for the city.
Additional Project Credits
Nicole Alvarez and Darryl Jones , Assoc. ASLA