GREEN Topic: Walkability and Walkscore
Snapshot & Benefits: Walkability is the measure of how easy it is to walk from your home to grocery stores, shopping centers, restaurants, movie theatres, etc. The closer your home is to daily destinations, the better walkability it has. Walk Score is an online tool that determines how walkable your home is on a scale from 1-100 (1 being very car dependent and 100 being a “walker’s paradise”). A point is earned for every business of interest (grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theatres, schools, libraries, fitness centers, etc.) that is between .25 and 1 mile from the home and bonus points are earned for businesses closer than .25 miles away. Click here and type in your address to find out how your home scores.
Walkability is based on a series of factors influencing the ease of pedestrian transportation including the following:
- The presence of a neighborhood “center,” be it a park, main street, or other common gathering area.
- The number of people in the area allowing businesses to flourish.
- A mixed use that combines homes with businesses within close proximity to each other.
- The availability of parks and public space in the area.
- The effectiveness of the pedestrian design (sidewalks, crosswalks, etc.).
- The proximity to schools and businesses for homeowners to walk to.
- Complete street design including space for bikes, pedestrians, cars, and buses.
Neighborhoods that meet all of these criteria are generally more pedestrian-friendly and foster a culture of walking rather over driving.
Living in a home with a high walkability score is a benefit to personal and environmental health, finances, and community growth. Because walking is a cardiovascular activity, living in and taking advantage of a neighborhood that’s design encourages pedestrian transportation is a direct benefit to personal health, building up muscle mass and helping increase daily exercise. If you choose to walk instead of drive, you are also reducing the amount of pollution put into the air by automobiles, helping decrease greenhouse gases and create a cleaner atmosphere. Walking is also free and will decrease the amount of money you spend on gas, oil, and car maintenance every year. Finally, a walking culture encourages people to get out of the house and interact with others on the streets, be it their lifelong neighbors or the new family that moved in down the street. This increased level of community interaction can add to the charm and interest in an area and heighten neighborhood safety as a large number of pedestrians tends to minimize the presence of street crimes.
According to Walk Score, San Francisco, CA is the most walkable city in America followed closely by New York, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Philadelphia, PA.
Estimated Cost Savings: In addition to the money saved by walking instead of driving, having a home with a high Walk Score can help add between $4,000 and $34,000 to its total value. It is estimated that for every point above average that your home scores, up to $3000 can be added to its value. This creates a direct market value for walkable neighborhoods, increasing their presence and demand. (CEO for Cities).
For more information on the financial benefits of walkability, check out the following articles:
Issues: Many people are afraid to walk around their neighborhood because of potential safety issues. However, if proper precautions are taken when walking, especially at night, safety risks can be drastically minimized. Stay alert and always walk in well-lit areas with lots of people around. If possible, walk with somebody if it is after dark and carry a flashlight with you. It does not hurt to carry pepper spray or mace in your purse or bag in case of a potential attack. Make sure it is quickly and easily accessible and in good working condition. If you have one, carry your cell phone where it can be easily reached in case of an emergency. Stay on sidewalks or crosswalks and always check for traffic before walking into the street. Take extra caution if walking with or around children and teach them how to cross safely. Click here for more tips on pedestrian safety.
Regional Issues: Not all neighborhoods built for walkability. Suburbs, rural area, and mountain communities are often more spaced out than urban cities and walking becomes much more difficult. If you live in one of these areas, try to make all of your local errands in one trip, parking your car in the most convenient spot and walking from store to store. This will help minimize the amount of pollution emitted by your car and get you walking, even if your home has a low Walk Score.
Videos on This Topic:
Building Livable, Walkable Communities (3:31) – Dan Burden – In this short video, Dan Burden, founder of Walkable Communities, Inc. and former Florida state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, talks about why walkability is an important part of neighborhoods and communities.
How Walkable is Your Neighborhood (1:57) – ABC Denver – This news clip explores the idea of neighborhood walkability and asks experts what a truly walkable neighborhood looks like.