Walking is top of mind for me after logging my first ever 25,000 steps day over the weekend. That marks the third time in the past two weeks where I’ve managed to walk more than 20,000 steps. Most of the steps happen on the streets of Seattle as I walk to get coffee, meet friends for lunch, or simply step away from my desk to formulate a blog post.
Walking is also something I sacrificed when moving from an urban location to my current semi-rural residence. Our old house in Seattle was a few blocks from virtually every business we visited regularly. At the same time, my old house in Seattle wouldn’t have afforded us the ability to have a garden and chickens, so there are always tradeoffs.
Seattle is a great walking city. It’s not top 10 in the U.S., but it’s close. How do I know? I looked it up on Walk Score.
How walkable is your city?
The Walk Score for your city is calculated based on walking distances from an address to a variety of commonly used amenities. If you’ve already taken up residence somewhere, this may not be particularly useful, because the only way to change the Walk Score of your location is to move.
On the other hand, if you are in the process of moving, knowing the Walk Score of areas you are considering is incredibly helpful. At least for me, all other things being equal, like low crime rate and good schools, housing with more walkable destinations is much better than housing without.
Where are the best places for walking?
Cambridge, Massachusetts is the most walkable city in the U.S. New York City, and Jersey City are close behind, which isn’t surprising. These are places where people can go their entire lives without own a car. Here’s the top 10 list for cities with 100,000 people or more.
Worst places for walkers?
According to Walk Score, Palm Bay and Port St. Lucie, Florida are the places you most need a car to get around. You can see the 10 worst places to walk below.
If you’re curious to see where your city ranks, or more specifically, your residence, Walk Score has a great searchable map.
How accurate is the scoring?
My current residence has a Walk Score of 3, which means I don’t live close to any amenities, though there’s a bus stop across the street, so I could get to town without a car. Walk Score doesn’t know I have a great trailhead right next to the property line, which certainly makes the area walkable for recreation, but I’d rather keep that a secret to minimize foot traffic anyway.
My old Seattle residence scores a 75, with multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and other amenities nearby. I also checked the scores for a number of my past residences in Iowa, which map pretty closely to what I might expect.
I’d say the scoring is accurate enough to give you some solid data in choosing a residence based on the walkability of the neighborhood.
What about Transit?
An important complement to walking is convenient access to public transit. While I almost never use Seattle’s bus system, it’s nice to know I have the option when I need it. The money savings is great too. The cost of the light rail to SEA-TAC is $2.75 compared with a $40 cab ride. Walk Score recently introduced a Transit Score that rates locations based on proximity to mass transit, frequency of stops, and some other factors that translate to usefulness.
Here again, this may not be useful if you already have a permanent residence, but if you’re looking for a new place to live or are considering office space, the Transit Score might be a good tipping point.
Did you pick your current residence based on walking distance to available services? Would you ever factor walking into your choice of residence?