Can you walk to buy groceries? To school or work? To your favorite restaurant? To the nearest hospital? These are just a few of the factors that are
taken into account when determining just how walkable a neighborhood is. Walkscore.com
ranks neighborhoods in the US,
Canada, and the United Kingdom
on a scale of 1-100 for their walkability. A neighborhood with a score below 50 is considered
“car-dependent.” A score of 90 to 100 is a “Walker’s
Paradise.” Sarah C., resident blogger here at MWW, lives
in a DC neighborhood with a Walk Score of 98. And, to boot, she walks to work every day!
With skyrocketing gas prices and increasing rates of
obesity in our country, it’s no wonder people are becoming more concerned about
the walkability of their communities. What
makes a neighborhood walkable? According
to Walk Score, it’s about having a pedestrian-friendly central area of town
where most businesses, schools, and public spaces are located. The site recently released a list of the most
– and least – walkable communities in the country, with San Francisco and New York
coming out on top. Certain neighborhoods
in these cities scored a perfect 100! (e.g. San Fran’s Chinatown)
|Walk Scores for cities with the highest walkability …
1. San Francisco: 86
… and the lowest walkability
36. Oklahoma City: 43
Scott Arbeit, who moved from Boston to Seattle to
work for Microsoft, says sometimes he goes a week without moving his car from
the driveway in his new neighborhood of Ballard, which has a Walk Score of 83.
He walks for daily errands and gets to work on a connector bus run by
Microsoft. He says that alone saves him $9 a day, and potentially more than
$2,000 a year.
“But it’s not really about the money,” he says.
“I was choosing a lifestyle, kind of pushing the reset button on my
Personally, I grew up in a suburb that was ranked 42 by
Walk Score (not good, but not bad). But,
I never walked anywhere when I lived there, even when my destination was less
than a mile away. Conversely, I am now
living in an urban area where I walk almost everywhere, even if it ends up
taking longer than other modes of transportation. It seems that the infrastructure of suburbs was
built for driving, not walking, especially since many suburb-dwellers drive
into nearby cities for work each day.
How did your neighborhood score? Do
you think it’s accurate? How often do
you walk to amenities or services in your area?
4 thoughts on “How walkable is your neighborhood?”
Thanks for your comment, Hannah. A very interesting comparison between transportation patterns in the U.S. vs. Poland. I think most who have visited Europe would make similar observations. What do you think underlies the disparity?
I think several geographic factors are at work here, including cultural norms, regional differences in “at the pump” petroleum prices, etc. Most important, I think, is the factor outlined in this article: public infrastructure, and the degree to which it does or does not support walkability and use of public transportation.
Many European cities have better public transportation systems than U.S. cities, as well as sidewalks to encourage walking (absent from many American towns and cities). Additionally, many of these “older world” localities lack the massive thoroughfares to allow for large numbers of personal vehicles. All these factors contribute to increasing rates of walking, biking, and use of public transit.
Well… My hometown neighborhood gets a score of 11, while my neighborhood in my college city gets a 12 (not much better…). I grew up in Poland, though, where *everyone* walked for *everything* or took the public bus or tram systems. Quite a change from that to the (mostly) sedentary American lifestyle!
I’m thrilled to live in a neighborhood here in Washington, D.C. with a walkability score of 98, as Sara R. mentioned.
I found Sara’s last point about differences in “perceptions” of space and distance in urban vs. rural and suburban areas particularly resonant with my own experiences.
I too find that in urban areas I’m more apt to walk the same distance than I am in most suburbs.
There are several factors at work here, I think. For one, it’s much more of a hassle to drive in a city with narrow, one-way streets, myriad traffic lights, and limited parking. But there’s also aspects of cities that make them FEEL more walkable than many suburbs, including sidewalks on every street, scenery that changes notably at each block, and general levels of ambient activity. All these factors contribute to making 1.5 miles of walking through a city seem shorter than 1.5 miles of walking in a suburb to me–that is, unless I hit the walk signals the wrong way and get seriously delayed! Do you agree?
**This discussion is routed in the geographic concept of “mental mapping.” Learn more at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/resources/ngo/education/ideas58/58mental.html
The neighborhood I grew up in only scored a 28! But while not very walkable, it wasn’t a busy neighborhood in terms of car traffic, so we rode bikes EVERYWHERE as kids. For the last 2 years my apartment was in a neighborhood that scored a 38 (not much better), so I’m pretty psyched to be moving to a neighborhood that scores in the mid-80s in a few weeks.
I found reading the methodology section on the walkscore website to be very interesting. They acknowledge there are several issues with the calculations that still need to be worked out. For instance, I am moving to a neighborhood that has a grocery store nearby, so its score is bumped up because of that. However, that grocery store is tiny and expensive (not a place I’m likely to shop). The bigger grocery store is 3+ miles away, so I’ll need to ride my bike, and for most people, that would mean driving to the supermarket.