Two University of Kentucky students pause in front of a streetlamp in the middle of campus. One holds his phone up to a bright blue sign attached to the pole, and steadies his camera over a QR code.
“I had no clue that was three minutes away,” his friend says.
The student holding the phone nods, and both head off walking down a slope toward several restaurants close to campus, occasionally checking the phone screen.
This scenario is a common occurrence since the installation of nearly 80 signs around campus as part of Walk [UK], a collaboration with the civic startup Walk [Your City]. The bright blue signs show the distance in minutes to on- and off-campus destinations that may be closer than students, staff, and visitors realize.
This initiative was started in early June, modeled after the Walk [Your City] program in Lexington, Kentucky. However, campus administrators paid special attention to the program after the U.S. Surgeon General issued a statement in September promoting walkable communities as a public-health strategy. Colleges and universities were specifically highlighted as a sector that can promote walkability through policy and campus design.
In addition to encouraging students to walk—instead of driving to nearby restaurants or shops—these signs are also a way for campus researchers to analyze how university populations might utilize technology to make walking a larger part of their daily commutes.
Each sign has a different phrase:
It is a 16 minute walk to work out before heading home.
It is a 3 minute walk to get lunch or a snack.
It is an 8 minute walk to get a check-up.