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.