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.


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.


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.


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.

Sebastian Jaen

Excellent, it is a great idea!!!


So how often do you walk?


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


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!


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.


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.


95 - King St, SOMA in San Francisco.

Somewhat expected but good to hear as I just moved here a few weeks ago.

Mike McNamara

Neat but not horribly accurate. It labels something a movie theater just because it has "theater" in its name. Of the 8 it listed within walking distance from my apartment (not sure how many people are walking 3 miles to see a movie but that's another argument), only 1 is an actual movie theater -- the other is the Brew and View which occasinally shows movies.

It also counts 7-11 and Citgos as grocery stores...which is certainly stretching the definition.


I can only second the posters who question the sites accuracy. I live 1 block from the DC border and my suburb is considered 'car dependent' while just two blocks away in DC (not really any closer to ammenities than I am) is considered about 50% (point wise) more 'walking friendly'. No way. I actually think a better metric of friendliness would be something like a z-score of a locations number of cars per age 18-plus household member minus the average. Isn't pedestrian friendly just the opposite of car dependent?

Roderick MacKay

Score of 93 for my address in Edinburgh which is low only because of paucity of info on Google maps, eg ther are about a dozen bars missing within a five minute walk. I reckon some time spent inputng data woul get the score way up.


This site uses Google Maps for its results, so if you don't like them, blame Google. In my experience I've found the site to be accurate enough, I can quibble with a few of the results or non-results, but the overall score is about what I'd expect. The site's heat maps of walkability of major cities is very interesting as well.


I think it's a great idea. I put in my last couple of addresses, and it did come up with estimates that are pretty close to my experience. We did choose all those address in large part because of the walkable amenities, so there's maybe some bias there.

As the site operators themselves point out, it could be vastly improved by counting in something about the landscape - walking along a quiet street vs. a busy highway makes a big difference, if the latter is even possible.

What was interesting to me was that the scores were generally good, even though its accuracy on individual items was lacklustre - for example, it classified the "Hardware Grill" as a hardware store, put a bookstore near my house that I'm pretty sure is actually just the mailing address of an online-only book dealership, listed the nearby bookstore-cum-coffeeshop as a bookstore only but had me walk 2.5 km across a major highway for a cup of coffee, listed businesses that have moved or closed, and missed others that have opened in the last year or so.

But the overall finding is still pretty good - an area that somewhat recently had a grocery store, drugstore, restaurants, bookstores, a musical instrument shop, etc. etc. will likely retain that general character, even if the specific occupants of specific retail spaces change; an area that didn't have any of those things, probably doesn't have the shopfronts and zoning to allow for them, so even old and sketchy data will do reasonably well.



My major beef with this site is that fast-food restaurants are a little too low in the weighting scale, as are zoos, wildlife preserves and petting farms. Maybe a similar site could be constructed for our non-human friends to determine if an area is canine, feline or ape friendly, as our simian friends are clearly in need of decent pedestrian walkways, plenty of nearby amenities and the occasional all-you-can-eat buffet.


I think that you having an image consultant proves that LA has sophistication and culture.

Read it against with a really sarcastic tone of voice.

OC Progressive

The Walkability Index has quite few methodological problems in most US neighborhoods. For example, using "as the crow flies" measurements, my nearby home improvement store is .6 miles away. I walk there periodically, and it's twice that distance because I need to walk to the nearest major arterials.

Correct for that error and other types of errors, and my neighborhood walkability index would drop from 58 to around 40, which is to say that it was designed around the car. If I walk to the neighborhood store, it's unsafe because I have to walk through parking lots where drivers don't expect pedestrians.

I've lived in walkable neighborhoods in the past in DC and in San Francisco, where it was practical to combine transit and walking to go for days without needing a car. The neighborhood where I grew up in Cincinnati was also eminently walkable, until the useful neighborhood businesses - the grocery, bakery, hardware store, pharmacy, movie theater, five and dime, were replaced by boutique shops.

The neighborhoods in the Los Angeles metro area that are truly walkable do exist, but they aren't all that prevalent. Far too much area is devoted to parking and streets, and the pedestrian environments are hostile and unsafe.

A walkable neighborhood doesn't just have some retail establishments withing walking distance. It's also designed with pedestrians and cyclists in mind, rather than built around the parking of vehicles.



I think the fact that it doesn't take safety, etc. into account is a huge setback. (Sure, I can walk to the library... as long as I cross a three-lane highway!)

That, and this is exactly why I trust human experience over automation. To say that LA is as walkable as New York, San Francisco, or Boston is absolutely laughable. Sure, there may be some nearby coffeeshops and Quiznos, detectable by an algorithm, but actually living in the cities would tell you otherwise.


I found a perfect 100/100: 235 california st, san francisco, CA.

However, this algorithm neglects to count that in the heart of the financial district, just about everything closes at 6:00 PM.


There are definitely parts of LA that are pedestrian friendly - Westwood Village, Los Feliz, Montrose, Pasadena, etc. The problem is that there are far too many areas in L.A. that are isolated - i.e., there is nowhere to walk to. Because so few people walk in LA, it seems quite unsafe for those of us who do like to walk to actually do so. Also, as you mention, topography and other factors do have an effect that aren't part of the site. While I could easily walk to my local supermarket (4 blocks away), I would probably not do so in the middle of the day in July when my part of the San Fernando Valley sees temperatures of way above 95 degrees. I like to walk but I don't like doing so in oppressive heat!