New Virtual Walk Audits: Worcester and Framingham

New Virtual Walk Audits: Worcester and Framingham


Walk audits—one of WalkBoston’s most effective tools to change the built environment and build a constituency of walking advocates—face an obvious hurdle during the pandemic: we can’t meet in person. With more people walking than ever before, we could not hit pause and wait until it is safe to gather again. We adapted our walk audit process to be virtual to continue improving walking conditions. We have conducted four virtual walk audits since the pandemic began: in Salem, Springfield, Fitchburg, and Worcester—we wrapped up the latter two in January and discuss them below.

Fitchburg’s Intermodal Center Virtual Walk Audit is the second walk audit in a statewide project examining the connections between social infrastructure and walkability within transportation-oriented development (TOD) areas. Neighborhood data and resident perspectives will be captured in virtual conversations and self-led walk audits in five Gateway Cities in Massachusetts. This project is co-hosted by WalkBoston and MassINC, with support from the Solomon Foundation.

The Worcester Virtual Walk Audit was conducted by WalkBoston, WalkBike Worcester, and the Worcester Department of Public Health Mass in Motion Program. Residents requested the virtual audit, which is serving as a pilot program for Worcester’s upcoming Complete Streets Prioritization process.

How We Made Our Walk Audits Virtual

  • Session 1: Participants convene on Zoom for a Ped101 workshop to share their walking concerns, learn about walkability basics, and review the self-led walk audit process.
  • Self-led walk audit: Participants have two weeks to walk the specified route, and document photos and written observations about the walking environment.
  • Session 2: Post-walk, participants reconvene on Zoom to discuss and set plans for next steps.

We use Google Sites to share recordings of our Zoom meetings so those unable to attend the first session can watch and provide feedback on their neighborhood’s walkability. The recommendations made during the second session are summarized into a PowerPoint report and memo for participants to use and turn into actions.

Virtual walk audits have served as a valuable tool for conducting our community-partnered work in a socially- distanced world. While we look forward to resuming our in-person walk audits, we plan to leverage these digital engagement strategies in the future to hear from those unable to attend in-person. If you’re having success with virtual community engagement, we’d love to trade notes —get in touch!

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s January/February 2021 newsletter.
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