Here’s a site (via Lifehacker) that calculates a walkability score for a given address. I grew up in the suburbs and didn’t appreciate the convenience of being able to walk everywhere until I moved into my current apartment (which scores 82 out of 100). I’ve come to like it so much that, when I next move, I will try to look exclusively at walkable neighborhoods.
One sees walkability being increasingly advocated as a goal in urban planning policy, often for the environmental benefits. Indeed, it’s almost certainly true that I have a much lower carbon footprint than I used to—on a typical week I only make one or two trips by car, and most of the time I don’t need mass transit either. To me personally (rather than on a policy level), however, this is a secondary benefit. (Although the gasoline savings are nice.) The reasons I prefer walkability are more tangible:
- Accessibility and convenience: if I need something from the grocery store or the pharmacy I can get it and be back within ten minutes.
- Social connectedness: while out walking I frequently run into friends and neighbors (and, once, a long-lost friend from high school, although I embarrassingly failed to recognize her).
- Exercise and fresh air: my baseline level of fitness (i.e. when I’m not running regularly) is much higher than it was when I used to drive everywhere. And walking around is just a nicer experience than being in a car (especially in sunny California).
I don’t mean to claim that everyone should immediately move to a walkable neighborhood—there’s something to be said for the personal space and privacy that comes with suburban living. But I was surprised at how much walkability improved my own quality of life, and I think it’s definitely something policymakers should place an increasing importance on.
I calculated the Walk Score of some of my past addresses to get a sense of how the scale works; here they are by city (but calculated for the specific address I lived at):
- Berkeley, CA (current address): 82
- El Cerrito, CA: 63
- Kensington, CA: 45
- Pasadena, CA: 63
- New Canaan, CT: 0
Calculate your own score, and let me know if you’re in a particularly walkable neighborhood—I may want to move there.