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What is Your Community’s Walk Score?

New York was ranked the most walkable city, according to Walk Score’s 2011 list of America’s Most Walkable Cities and Neighborhoods.

Other cities that ranked in the top ten include: 2) San Francisco, 3) Boston, 4) Chicago, 5) Philadelphia, 6) Seattle, 7) Washington D.C., 8) Miami, 9) Minneapolis and 10) Oakland.

The complete list of 2,500 cities and 10,000 neighborhoods is available on Walk Score’s website. To check out your community’s Walk Score, visit their website and type in your address.

Walk Score launched in July of 2007 with a mission to promote walkable neighborhoods which benefits our environment, health, finances and communities.

  • Walking helps reduce our use of cars which are the leading cause of climate change.

  • According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone living in a sprawling neighborhood.

  • The group estimates that one point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for a property.

  • Studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10 percent.

Walk Score’s walkability ranking is the only national, quantitative ranking of walkability in the U.S. Cities and neighborhoods are ranked on a scale of 0-100 with locations receiving a score of 90-100 deemed as a “Walker’s Paradise”. A score below 50 indicates that almost all errands require a car or just a few amenities are within walking distance.

“With rising gas prices, Americans are looking for alternatives to long commutes and driving around town to complete their errands,” said Walk Score CEO Josh Herst. “Americans most walkable cities and neighborhoods make it easy for residents to have their cars at home more often.”

Walk Score uses an algorithm to determine a community’s score. But the Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle – now how pretty the area is for walking. The algorithm awards points based on distance to amenities. For example, amenities within a quarter mile receive maximum points. No points are awarded for amenities further than one mile.

The extent to which a community is walkable includes a number of factors. Walkable neighborhoods have a center whether it's a main street or a public space. These places have enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently. The area also has affordable housing located near businesses with plenty of public places to gather and play. Walkable neighborhoods have buildings that are close to the street with parking lots relegated to the back. Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes. Importantly, streets are designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

In addition to a Walk Score, a Transit Score has been developed for how well a location is served by public transportation. Locations receiving a score of 90-100 are deemed a “Rider’s Paradise”. Like the Walk Score, you can determine your community’s Transit Score by plugging in your address of their website.

“An American family living in a house that is accessible only by car is spending on average 25 percent of their income on cars. Households in walkable communities spend less than half that amount, putting more money in their pockets,” said Christopher B. Leinberger from the Brookings Institute.

The Bottom Line

Even though we live in a beach community, I was somewhat surprised to learn that our Walk Score was just 69. But, my view of walkability is based less on proximity to amenities and more on whether sidewalks, pathways or parks are outside my front door.

If you travel often (like I do), this site makes it a bit easier to determine if the area you’ll be visiting will fit into your activity plans.

The good news about walking is that it doesn’t require special equipment. Perhaps more importantly, people of all ages can easily get outside and walk.

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