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Wendy Bumgardner

Use Walk Score to See If You Live in a Walkable Neighborhood

By July 26, 2007

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Our Guide to Cars pointed me to Walkscore.com, a web site that rates your neighborhood for walkability. I've lived in my present neighborhood for many years. I find it extremely walkable - I can head out of my house and safely enjoy several different 6 mile walks. Some are flat. Some go up some good, steep hills. Some visit the post office, grocery store, and Starbucks. Most go through nice parks with restrooms. My only gripe is that our surburb has kept expanding, and so the construction porta-potties are getting further and further away. You see, I'm a fitness walker, not somebody who uses walking for transportation. I love my present location because I can enjoy so many different walks right from my front door. What I want on my walk is:
  • Safe walking surfaces out of traffic: sidewalks, bike paths, park paths, or very quiet streets to walk in.
  • Restrooms every 1-2 miles. I don't mind porta-johns, and I'm quite brave about using Starbucks or gas stations. I just want to know they are available when I need them.
  • Quiet routes: little or no walking next to busy streets.
  • Feeling of security - I know my neighborhood is a pretty safe place for women walking alone. I know crime can happen anywhere, but my neighborhood walking routes are full of other walkers, joggers, bikers, and dog walkers.
  • Destinations: It's often more fun to "walk to the park" or "walk to Starbucks" rather than just walking around housing developments.
But when you plop my address into WalkScore.com, it gives it a score of 28 out of 100 - a "Not Walkable" rating. Excuse me?!

The WalkScore.com rating is mostly based on walking as transportation. Indeed, I am 1.5 miles from most needed services. That's a short walk for me, but too far for carrying anything to and fro. Since most errands require driving, they rank my address as Not Walkable. Their definition of walkable is transportation-based: can you live there happily without a car? I agree, my neighborhood isn't someplace you want to live if you have no car. It is further to the bus than to the grocery store. You could survive pretty well with a bicycle if you worked from home or in the nearby industry. The town is set up in a horseshoe pattern of development with stores in the middle, housing surrounding it, and light industry and agricultural areas surrounding that. I can walk from my house to a farm stand for fresh-grown vegetables and fruits.

For fitness walking, my location is wonderful. For surviving without a car, it is difficult. That is the nature of suburbs. But, frankly, I grew up in a farming area where the roads were unsafe for both walking and biking and town was over five miles away. Where I live now is a walker's paradise, comparatively. And I really think I'd feel hemmed-in in the dense neighborhoods preferred for "Walkability." You can't take a farm girl and put her in a high-rise without even a patch of lawn. Am I a selfish, un-green person? Am I contributing more than my share to global warming? What do you think makes a neighborhood walkable?
Top Walking Cities 2007
10 Reasons to Start Walking for the Planet

Comments
August 2, 2007 at 8:50 am
(1) beth says:

I just did my house and found that it ratesas unwalkable with a score of 25- yet I am .5 miles from the monon trail a major walking riding train and off of at least 4 major bus routes that do go to grocery stores, coffee shops and theaters- I manage to keep driving to a fairly low level which is difficult in Indy…

August 2, 2007 at 1:21 pm
(2) mel says:

This is not very accurate! The map shows my house in the middle of an expressway that is actually a couple of miles from my house! The sidebar shows the nearest library over a mile away (in the next city) when, actually, my library is in my town and less than a mile from my house. Disappointing.

August 2, 2007 at 6:10 pm
(3) Jean says:

The mileage to stores, parks, etc is way off. If they were as close as they say, I’d seldom use my car. With the miles that off, it gave my address a score of 40.

August 2, 2007 at 6:31 pm
(4) Teresa says:

I was dismayed but the uselessness of this website. I live next to an elementary school and a high school. My kids walked to school every day. They could easily get to their summer and after school activities, too. How wonderful is that?! That’s walkability at it’s best!

The mileage list to businesses was inaccurate and didn’t even list the grocery stores and convenience stores I can walk to during my workouts. Need a birthday card or last minute meal ingredient? I can hit the road on foot and work it into my fitness routine. Yes, I need a car for my regular grocery shopping or Wal-Mart run but no matter where you live it would be hard to carry everything in that case. I guess you just make a lot of trips if you don’t have a car which eats up your time and that’s not appealing to me.

Also, I don’t want to know how close the lumber store is. I’m not lugging lumber to my house on foot. And I don’t want to know how close the spa is. I’m not showing up for a massage slathered in sweat if I can help it.

My home is also next to a city-wide trail system and within a few minutes of many, many other trail systems and parks and a forest planted by the parents of the elementary school I live by. We even have a small farm tucked away in the area that is fun to walk to. My city is walker’s paradise, in my opinion!

However, I realize the definition of walkability at this website is different than mine and it would most likely include quite a bit of traffic and car exhaust to inhale. Possibly not much shade either. I’ll just stick to my own definition of walkability and savor where I live.

August 9, 2007 at 11:52 pm
(5) JULIE says:

HELLO ALL YOU DRIVERS
obviously you didn’t understand what the walkscore.com website is all about. I am a WALKER first and then a fitness walker, never driven in my life because of medical reasons, so i would suggest, unless you are planning on given your driving up, don’t go there if your going to cry about it. This site is for people with little or no transportation at all. It doesn’t say Teresa or Wendy doesn’t have a beautiful place to walk in there neighborhood. I am a single mom and have done grocery shopping, movies, dinners, sports, lessons, swimming, dance, theatre and the list goes on and on WALKING. its called organization and time management.
WARNING THE WALKSCORE WEB SITE IS FOR REAL WALKERS—–NOT FITNESS WALKERS.

August 9, 2007 at 11:57 pm
(6) JULIE says:

FORGOT TO TELL YOU MY SCORE WAS 63 OUT OF 100. I BEAT U ALL { I WONDER WHY?? }
AND MY NEIGHBORHOOD IS A GREAT PLACE FOR WALKING.
JULIE

September 8, 2008 at 11:10 am
(7) Patricia G. says:

I live near the center of Arlington, MA, a suburb of Boston, and the only reason the walk score here is as low as 88 is that it’s a mile and a half to the nearest bar. This is as walkable as it gets — the nearest supermarket is about a half mile, but it’s on a bus line, and there are closer convenience stores.

May 28, 2010 at 1:42 am
(8) BoooooWalkscoreGiveUsMore says:

Walkscore is a one trick pony (proximity to stores)…whose trick is already done better by other apps. I can see proximity to stores with google maps for instance.

What’s so hard about factoring in rainy days, crime, topography (hills), percent of people that take mass transit, bike or (gasp!) walk to work, and narrowness of roads? I see Walkscore pays NO attention to whether there are even sidewalks…which to me is a deal breaker as far as walkability goes. I refuse ‘play chicken’ with oncoming traffic or walk in a muddy ditch. And most people, especially those with children, will agree with me here.

Also, the condescending suggestion that if you don’t like the way Walkscore.com works, you should “use the Web 3.0 app called going outside and investigating the world for yourself” (http://www.walkscore.com/how-it-doesnt-work.shtml)

…dismisses the essential improvements Walkscore.com needs in order to actually be of any use whatsoever. And it insults anyone with a brain.

Thanks for letting me post my thoughts, moms!

November 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm
(9) eila says:

“Walkability” is a meaningless concept unless the pedestrian infrastructure is constructed safely and accessibly (i.e., according to minimal building code standards). See what Somerville, MA- which received a “10th in the nation” walkability score- does instead:
Somerville, MA: Millions Wasted on Deficient Walkability Improvements
http://www.somervillevoices.org/2011/11/02/schools-and-youth/somerville-ma-millions-wasted-on-deficient-walkability-improvements/

November 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm
(10) eila says:

Walkability is meaningless unless pedestrian infrastructure is constructed at least minimally adhering with safety and access building code. See what Somerville, MA, named 10th most walkable city in the nation, does:
Somerville, MA: Millions Wasted on Deficient Walkability Improvements
http://www.somervillevoices.org/2011/11/02/schools-and-youth/somerville-ma-millions-wasted-on-deficient-walkability-improvements/

May 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm
(11) Marie says:

You people complain about walking! You are most likely in a city, that is flat. Try a city like San Bernardino. All roadways are like riding in mountains, on hilly climbs up and down! So be thankful you have a flat surface.

May 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm
(12) Dr Nirenberg says:

Your experience with Walk Score is not uncommon. It happened to me, and I started digging into the scientific research that has analyzed Walk Score. The findings are downright scary. In 2 studies Walk Score was associated with crime. That is, a high walk score occured in high crime areas. It was also associated with a high body mass index in another study. And there is more –

http://flowalking.com/2013/05/what-does-walk-score-mean-the-surprising-results-of-scientific-research/

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