How walkable is your city?

Walking is in the air!

WalkScore has announced America’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods by ranking 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 U.S. cities.

The Top 10 most walkable cities and neighborhoods:

  1. San Francisco (86): Chinatown, Financial District, Downtown
  2. New York (83): Tribeca, Little Italy, Soho
  3. Boston (79) Back Bay-Beacon Hill, South End, Fenway-Kenmore
  4. Chicago (76) Loop, Near North Side, Lincoln Park
  5. Philadelphia (74) City Center East, City Center West, Riverfront
  6. Seattle (72) Pioneer Square, Downtown, First Hill
  7. Washington D.C. (70) Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Downtown
  8. Long Beach (69) Downtown, Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights
  9. Los Angeles (67) Mid City West, Downtown, Hollywood
  10. Portland (66) Pearl District, Old Town-Chinatown, Downtown

Frankly, I’m surprised to see San Francisco at the top of the list.  I think of New York City as much more walkable, but then my experience is almost exclusively of Manhattan, and the city is larger than that.  A comparison of color-coded maps helps to make a case for the 3-point difference (which is not a big difference).

Also, the scores are based on walkability criteria which focus on walkability within the neighborhood (does it have a center; density; parks and open spaces, etc.), and not necessarily the ability to move about the city without a car.  I think based on that latter criterion, SF would score lower.  My point of reference is Tokyo (where I’ve lived).  For this same reason, I’m also shocked to see a city I equate with driving, Los Angeles, on the list.  But then again, it’s about the neighborhoods, and there are definitely older neighborhoods in LA.

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle story on this topic, Christopher Leinberger, author of “The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream” and the article “The Next Slum?” ranks the Bay Area third in his own study of the walkability of 30 metropolitan areas (Washington, D.C. and Boston topped the list.) He points out strengths and opportunities for improvement for what he calls “Walkable Urbanism“:

“You are providing more of what the market wants than most other metro markets in the country,” he said. “I personally think it explains why San Francisco for the last 20 years has been as successful as it has been as a metro economy.”

“You probably have 50 places in the San Francisco Bay Area that could become high-density, walkable urban places,” he said. “If you give a damn about what the market wants and give a damn about climate change, the highest priority in the Bay Area should be to up-zone those areas.”

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