What’s Your Walk Score?

Here’s a website worth checking out if you own a good pair of shoes and don’t mind using them once in a while. It’s called Walk Score and it gauges the pedestrian-friendliness of locations.

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Type in any address or pair of cross streets in the U.S. (or Europe for that matter), and the site maps the area and plots the nearby recreational, commercial, cultural, and social amenities. Even better, for the quantitatively inclined, it assigns each location a walk score on a 0 to 100 scale.

The site doesn’t take weather, safety, topography (e.g. hills), or the characteristics of the street network into account. (To their credit, the site’s creators cheerfully admit to these shortcomings.) But in all, the walk scores are pretty much what you’d intuitively expect, providing a degree of confidence the site is getting it right. Here’s a sampling:

Barack Obama‘s current residence (Washington, D.C.) — 97
George Bush‘s current secondary residence (Crawford, Tex.) — 0
Bill Gates‘s house (Medina, Wash.) — 11
Stone Pony rock club (Asbury Park, N.J.) — 75
Graceland (Memphis, Tenn.) — 42
Neverland Ranch (Los Olivos, CA) — 0
“Friends” apartment building (West Village, Manhattan, New York City) — 98
Brad Pitt & Jennifer Anniston’s former home (Beverly Hills, Calif.) — 28
Penny Lane (Liverpool, U.K.) — 71
3 Abbey Road (St. John’s Wood, London, U.K.) — 73
Boardwalk & St. James Place (Atlantic City, N.J.) — 89
Dubner‘s place (Manhattan, New York City) — 91
Levitt‘s office at the University of Chicago (Hyde Park, Chicago) — 86
My abode in Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) — 97

Which brings us to the promised bonus myth. As you’ll note, my location demonstrates that there is indeed such a thing as a walkable neighborhood in Los Angeles. In fact, Walk Score ranks Los Angeles as the ninth most pedestrian-friendly city out of the largest 40 cities. More on the city rankings and what they say about the state of American urbanization next post.

So one more stereotype about Los Angeles bites the dust. And before I get off this topic (I promise), let’s dispense with one final myth, namely that Los Angeles is lacking in sophisticated and cultured people. For your information, my image consultant is a Harvard psychology grad, my personal trainer has patented a revolutionary new ab cruncher, and my yogi has attained the Twelfth Circle of Enlightenment.

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  1. Kat says:

    I entered in the zip code for my college campus, and it was rated are car-dependent. However, when I’m living there, I am always walking, even when I go off campus.
    Then I tried my home zip code, where I often try to walk and bike, but there is far too much traffic to get around comfortably on a regular basis.

    I wasn’t expecting it to be entirely accurate, of course. If I were feeling more rigorous I’d try to figure out why these ratings are so far different from reality.

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  2. Eric says:

    I took a trip out to L.A. back in December with a backpack, was there for two days and stayed at a friend’s house the one night I was there, but she couldn’t be around except late that night. So I walked or took the train/bus everywhere I went, the entire time with backpacking gear on my back. It wasn’t too bad, actually.

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  3. Sebastian Jaen says:

    Excellent, it is a great idea!!!

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  4. john says:

    So how often do you walk?

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  5. jonathan says:

    I ranked 94 – it’s in Boston – but the data sources couldn’t find a bookstore and located a defunct hardware store.

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  6. Publius says:

    WHAT A WASTE! A totally inaccurate web site. I live 3/4 of a mile, a walk I make frequently, from a LARGE university (50,000+ students). The University has all the amenities you would expect as well as stadiums for all sports (45,000 football stadium etc), theaters, and a 10,000 seat arena that is frequently the site of national tours and concerts.

    Your site could NOT find the University!

    My rating – 8 of 100! Car dependent my a**!

    BTW, your site did Identify a library – the Knight Library within walking distance – only problem it’s a BAR!

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  7. David says:

    We’re pretty much stuck with cars here in Jacksonville. I got a rank of 6, which isn’t surprising at all. Unless you live in the heart of downtown (which is all office buildings, no housing), you’re pretty much stuck. The only other walkable place I can think of is the beaches area, but it’s still a long walk between all the bars.

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  8. enoriverbend says:

    The ‘Walk-Score’ is interesting but the whole ‘walkability’ movement is chock full of misnomers and misleading labels, and I find that highly irritating.

    The Walk Score isn’t really primarily about walking, it’s primarily about shopping and consuming, and secondarily about not having to drive to shop and consume. I wouldn’t complain if it was labelled the “Shop while Walking” score.

    All you need to consider to prove that ‘walkability’ isn’t primarily about walking: The Appalachian Trail isn’t walkable. Your local GiantMegaMall is.

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