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Grand Rapids plans new wayfinding signage to encourage more walking downtown | Public Spaces

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Grand Rapids plans new wayfinding signage to encourage more walking downtown
Public Spaces
Grand Rapids plans new wayfinding signage to encourage more walking downtown

by Anya Zentmeyer
This story originally appeared in Rapid Growth

As organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. plan the installation of a new wayfinding system in the urban core of downtown Grand Rapids, they hope new signage will not only act as practical guides for tourists and visitors, but also serve the same larger goal that has been behind much of Grand Rapids’ recent downtown development initiatives – walkability.

“It is meant to be a little more casual and really focused on the time it takes people to walk from one place to another,” says Bill Kirk, mobility manager at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. 

The Downtown Development Authority approved up to $10,000 for purchasing the corrugated plastic signs from North Carolina-based startup Walk Your City, which provides assistance in the planning, production and implementation of fully customizable pedestrian and bicyclist wayfinding signs in cities throughout the U.S. geared at encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic. 

Kirk says walkability and pedestrian/cyclist accessibility not only makes for a more livable downtown core, but also a stronger retail district. 

“Countless studies and other downtown experiences have shown the increase in pedestrian and cyclist traffic does have a positive effect on retail activity,” Kirk says. “Just from a logical perspective there’s that aspect of, the more people you get walking and riding around your city the more you get to know your city. I think a lot of people find that when they give it a try, they discover things they might not have known were there before, say a little shop or pocket park or something like that. It all fits into the mantra of really creating a walkable, bikeable, livable downtown all built around and on the human scale.” 

Instead of measuring the distance to downtown attractions by mileage, these new signs will offer pedestrians and cyclists more tangible directions like  “It’s a 10 minute walk to Rosa Parks Circle,” Kirk says.

The signs also feature QR codes that can be scanned for more detailed Google Map walking directions, which serves not only the functionality of the signage, but also acts as a built-in performance metric that will help the city understand how the signs are being used and whether or not the pilot project is worth continuing and expanding when the 18-month lifespan of the signage rolls around. 

One of the perks of the system is the ability to easily adapt to how the city is using the signage, Kirk says, adding that they will keep a consistent finger on the pulse of the project and take things like ArtPrize and weather into consideration when evaluating those numbers down the line. 

“I think at the end of the day we just want people, by walking, to connect with their city and with each other more,” Kirk says. 

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