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Nashua project urges people to get up and walk

NASHUA — Providing power to pedestrians is the concept behind an initiative next week to promote a walkable community.

Walk Your City is a nationwide project coming to Nashua. Signs will be installed throughout the Tree Street neighborhoods informing walkers and bikers how long it will take them to get to certain downtown sites, including Nashua City Hall, the city bus terminal, the community gardens and nearby soccer fields.

The signs will also direct pedestrians to other sites, such as a hair salon, theater, pizza shop and church.

James Vayo of Visualize Nashua said some of the signs will read, “It is a 6 minute walk to tasty tacos,” “It is a 10 minute walk to a beautiful riverfront view,” and “It is a 1 minute walk to outdoor dining.”
Each sign includes a barcode that pedestrians may scan with their smart phones to obtain specific directions.

The goal is to prove that it is not too far to walk to a corner market, local bank, florist, bakery or playground, according to organizers.
About 30 signs will be placed at intersections along the Heritage Rail Trail between Estabrook Grill and City Hall, said Vayo.

“The tree streets have a lot of great assets, but they are not advertised in a positive way. We are hoping to promote healthy, positive ideas in this area of the city,” said Vayo.
If the project is successful, Vayo believes that other neighborhoods throughout downtown Nashua — including the Crown Hill and French Hill neighborhoods — will install similar signs to promote a walkable city.
“In our downtown, we are lucky enough to have a dense area where people can choose to either use a car or not use a car,” said Vayo, pointing to other successful and walkable areas, such as downtown Portsmouth and Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass.
The Walk Your City project originally started in Raleigh, N.C., and has expanded to several other cities.

According to the Walk Your City website, about 41 percent of daily trips in the United States are less than 20 minutes by foot.
“Road signage has traditionally been expensive and car-centered, leaving walkers and bikers by the wayside. Walk Your City lets anyone from citizens to corporations quickly and affordably promote healthy lifestyles, public safety and human-centered transit,” the site states.
The Nashua project is being funded by the Greater Nashua YMCA, which was recognized in 2013 by the Citizens Bank Foundation Growing Communities Initiative and awarded money to support improvements and activities along the rail trail. The Community Health Improvement Plan obesity workgroup is assisting with the project.
The signs will be installed at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 13, with volunteers meeting at the corner of Ash and West Hollis streets.

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