Ever wondered what kinds of amenities were in your area but you were too busy driving in your car to really pay attention? A new website might help you figure out how easy it is to use your feet instead of your wheels.
Walk Score is an innovative online tool that allows people to measure “how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle.” The user enters an address and the website provides a score out of 100 ranking an address’s walkability. The Walk Score algorithm calculates the score based on the proximity of amenities like stores, restaurants, schools and parks to the entered address. If you’re in an extremely walkable location, your score will end up in the “Walkers’ Paradise” range, while if you need your car just to get a haircut, you’ll be in the “Car-Dependant (Driving Only)” score range. Much more upbeat than “Walkers’ Hell.”
Walk Score also did an interesting “walkability heat map” analysis on the largest 40 U.S. cities to determine the walkability of these locales. It’s no surprise that at the top of the list were San Francisco, New York, and Boston. The least walking-friendly locales in the analysis were Charlotte, Nashville and Jacksonville. The image below shows the map for San Francisco. Green is walking-friendly; Red is vehicle-dependant.
Walk Score is also a good introduction to the environmental, social, economic and health benefits of walking. The website has a real estate services section that allows realtors to identify the Walk Score of locations as part of the information on the property. Finally, their blog provides some interesting stories and videos on all things walking.
As a self-described urbanite who is focused on location as the primary criteria for my decision on where to live, I was curious to see how my house fared. I live in the Kensington area of Calgary – one of the most walkable inner communities in the city. I scored a 77 out of 100, which puts me in a “very walkable” location. Not bad. It seems I have taken a step backwards from the condo I moved from last year in Calgary’s Beltline, which scores a very respectable 89 out of 100. Either way, in these two locations, I have been able to grab a coffee, get my groceries, rent a movie or most importantly during Calgary’s glorious 4 days of summer, have a choice of multiple locations to enjoy a beer on a patio – all by foot. These are the day-to-day interactions that are most important to have within walking distance as they add up so quickly over time.
While it currently doesn’t include important factors such as community design, topography and public transit, Walk Score provides an interesting perspective on your neighbourhood and the relative level of ease to take advantage of the services and spaces nearby. For those that are inclined to drive, it shows the places where it makes sense to stroll to. For those that already use their feet, it can also highlight some things in your area you didn’t even know about. I just found a coffee shop in the neighbourhood I’m going to have to check out this week.
What’s so interesting about Walk Score is that it puts walking at the forefront. Often, locational discussions are centered on the availability of parking spaces. In all likelihood, the higher the Walk Score a location gets, the worse the parking situation will be. That’s OK, while they easily win the parking discussion, no one ever accused big box stores of being vibrant and interesting.
What is your city, neighbourhood, and Walk Score? Post it below and share the best thing about your area to make it walkable.