Ministry of Health, Physical Activity Working Group, and U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted an event called the Walkability Institute with the intention of promoting a more walkable Palau.
Research suggests that walking has a lot of benefits to the body such as improve cholesterol levels or strengthen bones and it’s a simple yet effective way to incorporate physical activity into one’s daily life. However, in order to promote more walking in Palau the streets and roadways need improvement so that it can be safe and attractive for all.
The walkability institute was done in three phases: the first was the assessment, then the reporting process, and finally a few demonstrations of what can be done to increase walking in Palau. The assessment started at March with the help of the 26th Police Academy of Palau along with some members from the Ministry of Health. They assessed the streets and roadways of central Koror area, Meyuns, and Malakal. They checked if the areas have dogs, enough lighting, trees to protect people from the sun, is it a sidewalk where it’s safe for people to walk on, or if there are places in Koror that are within walking distance where people can relax.
After that a report was made from the information inside the assessment. According to some of the information 53% of the streets don’t have sidewalks, 30% don’t have streetlights, 17% have dogs present in the street during the assessment, and 2% of the streets have good sun coverage. Meetings were held at Koror Constitution Hall on October 30th-31st between members from the PAWG and CDC about what measures can be taken to help with the issues.
Mark Fenton, Professor at Tuffs University and Haley Cash, a regional epidemiologist for the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands, presented about the walkability institute at PICRC on the evening of October 31st. In the presentation, they talked about the outcome of their research and recommendations that can be made to help with Palau’s road issues.
Mark suggested that in the policy level, Palau should consider thinking about formally adapt a complete streets policy and a walkable development policy. These policies ensure that the roads and sidewalks are safe for everyone no matter their mode of transportation.
He also suggested that Palau could make roundabouts which are circular intersections where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, roundabouts decrease car crashes and traffic. Mark said that roundabouts can be inexpensive and that it can be made from materials such as old tires.
To make it safe for crossing and walking on the side of the road, Mark suggested that vertical delineator could be placed on crosswalks and the side of the road where people commonly walk such as the road from Shell going to Koror Elementary School. The purpose of these objects are to protect the pedestrian from cars that might accidentally hit them.
Lastly, Mark said that the community can do something about the issues with the road such as planting trees to promote more areas for walking. He said that these measures are not a permanent solution, but a step towards finding one that helps Palau in the future. (By Telbakes Yano)