Walkable neighborhoods


2 thoughts on “Walkable neighborhoods

  1. It’s troubling to see the magnitude of people gravitating toward Walkscore and thinking that it is a real measure of walkability. Walkscore should not be used to analyze how walkable an area is as it does not consider the three most critical factors of walkability:

    1. Connections: Walkscore can’t tell if sidewalks exist or not. It can’t even evaluate if there’s a street to connect to a destination that it tells you is within a walking distance of your address. You might need a machete and steel-toed books to walk to the doctor’s office.

    2. Actual route distance: Walkscore measures crowflight distance, not actual walking distance. I live in a neighborhood that has several destinations within a 1/2-mile radius. Too bad it takes me more than a mile to walk to them because of the street system along a major 7-lane arterial highway.

    3. Land Use/Design: You could have the most “walkable” area according to Walkscore, but if you’re walking in front of a Walmart or other horribly designed commercial or residential strip, you won’t find the area to be very pedestrian-friendly.

    The recent Congress for the New Urbanism conference was held at the Hilton in downtown Atlanta and the theme was relating public health to the built environment. Type its address into Walkscore (255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA) and it will tell you that it is a “86 – Walker’s Paradise“. It ignores the fact that there are 4- and 5-lane one way streets with high speed traffic surrounding the hotel. I-85/75 runs to the north and east of the hotel and is a major pedestrian barrier. The restaurants that are deemed by Walkscore to be close by are buried within nearby Marriott and Hilton hotels that are 1960s/1970s behemoths. It is hardly a walking paradise; it may be in a downtown are but the street system is strikingly suburban and very unfriendly to someone wanting to venture out and explore downtown Atlanta on foot.

    Now try this address: 463 Western Boulevard, Jacksonville, NC (note that’s NC, not FL). Good ol’ Walkscore tells you this is a “74 – Very Walkable“. Now go view this address on Google Earth or with a satellite view in Google maps. You’ll see this is one of the most suburban-sprawl infested areas of the United States. It has several destinations within a “walkable” distance but has no sidewalks, no crosswalks and no local street connections to get to the hospital, doctor’s offices, college, restaurants, bookstore, etc. This address is for the Hooter’s in Jacksonville – a big hangout for local Marines at Camp Lejeune.

    Now, download the Walkscore app to you iPhone and randomly test it as you move through urban areas. It’s fatal flaws will become evident after two or three locations.

  2. Very good points raised, TeflonDon. Your third point is one that I have brought up to those who, despite being supporters of smart growth, also favor minimal architecture. You can’t expect pedestrians to be terribly excited about walking down a street that has characterless buildings even if the neighborhood is physically walkable. Modernist architecture is designed to accomodate the car – it’s the kind of builiding design that’s fairly easy to digest going 40 mph, but not 5.

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