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When I picture the ideal neighborhood in Northwest Arkansas, I imagine people out-and-about walking and enjoying the spaces in and around their homes with kids playing freely. But, as ride my bike around town, many of the residential streets seem oddly quiet and too often, cars outnumber people.

Whether you live in a tight-knit street of long-time homeowners or a newer development with lots of renters coming and going, chances are you face a lot of the same challenges. Wealthy and low-income neighborhoods alike have to deal with cut-through traffic (or neighbors) that speeds down the street as well as property crimes such as car break-ins.

In the end, we all want our neighborhoods to be as safe and as prosperous as possible. But we often struggle with what that looks like and how to get there.

You don't have to move to a wealthier neighborhood to upgrade your environment.

I'll offer some simple, low-cost or no-cost actions you can take to help take back the streets and foster a sense of community in your neighborhood.

Walk your neighborhood regularly. Pick a destination or just step out your front door and explore. Walking your dog is great for this. I promise you'll notice things you never knew were there. People tend to slow down in areas where they are used to seeing pedestrians.

Maintain walking spaces. If you have sidewalks in front of your home, keep plants trimmed back. Don't park cars or leave trash cans on the sidewalk -- it discourages pedestrians, who, again, slow down traffic.

Show respect. When you're behind the wheel, go the speed you would like others to drive in front of your house.

Spend time in front of your home. Hang out on your front porch and say hello to people passing by. Wash your car in your driveway. It's the oldest and best way to put a face and a name to your home. This also makes your whole neighborhood a less enticing target for property crimes.

Throw a block party. Open up your street for people to meet their neighbors and let kids ride bikes and play in the street. Most cities have a process to allow neighborhoods to close streets to cars for special events.

Be creative. Tactical Urbanism (a phrase worth googling) or public art installations can add color and character to a street. There are plenty of examples of "yard art" in my neighborhood that make my family walks just a little more interesting.

Park your car on the street instead of your driveway. This one's subtle, but people tend to slow down on narrower roadways. It also makes walking more comfortable by serving as a physical buffer from traffic.

Visit a Little Free Library or a "little free pantry" to make a deposit or check something out. These small communal cabinets allow neighbors to share books and food for free. If you don't have one nearby, consider building one with a handy friend.

These aren't hard, right?

Often the mere act of being visible and making a place look lived-in is a low-key, polite self-defense technique.

And the same things that make a neighborhood safer can also raise property values and make it a more fun and interesting place.

You want to live like the rich? Just live, richly.

Sports on 11/05/2019

Print Headline: Better neighborhoods start in the streets

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