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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COMMENTS: 36


  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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  9. MIke says:

    95 – King St, SOMA in San Francisco.

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

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  10. Mike McNamara says:

    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.

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  11. chappy says:

    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?

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  12. Roderick MacKay says:

    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.

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  13. Troy says:

    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.

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  14. dragonfrog says:

    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.

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  15. Kevin says:

    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.

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  16. Andrew says:

    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.

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  17. OC Progressive says:

    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.

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  18. Jake says:

    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.

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  19. Mike says:

    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.

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  20. RZ says:

    Eric,
    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!

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  21. mt says:

    “los angeles,ca” = 97/100!!!

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  22. Kaushik says:

    huh…….if some thing like this is developed for cities in India ……..I bet that the scores will be in negative ……..^^__^^

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  23. LJD says:

    I live in the Toronto area, and typed in three addresses:

    1. My apartment. I live on a major street in the north part of the city. While there is not much directly around my apartment, a nice 15 minute walk will get you to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank and numerous restaurants and stores. I also live <5 minute walk from a subway stop and a regional bus terminal. Score: 37/100

    2. My parents’ home. Located in suburbia, just north of Toronto proper. A few plazas within a 20 minute walk, and a nice park runs through the area. Score: 42/100

    3. My work. Located in a suburb northwest of the city, in what I like to call an ‘industrial wasteland’. There are a ton of auto repair shops, and not much else. A bunch of big box stores somewhat nearby. Street layout is very un-friendly for pedestrians, and it takes about 15 minutes to walk to a coffee shop that is across the street (j-walking not recommended on a 80 km/h, 8 lane road). Only useful things nearby are a post office and liquor store. Score: 48/100.

    The results were essentially the reverse of my personal experience, although there was not a great variation in scores between the three locations.

    While the limitations are described on the site, I think that these are some very serious limitations in not accounting for public transit, street design, safety, etc.

    In particular, I consider the fact that it doesn’t account for public transit to be a major issue. I find the results more or less meaningless if they don’t take it into account. The website seems to lump together using public transit and depending on a car, but whether or not one needs a car can vary dramatically depending on public transit options. Of the three locations I listed, the only one that is liveable without a car is the first, but it has a low score. Indeed, I did it for a year. (Even now, we only take out our car once or twice a week.) These is due to the excellent public transit options nearby.

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  24. Marc says:

    I think it’s fair to include shops, restaurants, etc. as part of the score. For example, consider a 100% residential neighborhood with sidewalks. Sure, you could walk around a lot – but only walking for recreation. Walking to run errands or go somewhere is not feasible. Moreover, if there’s no park nearby then people are less likely to walk for recreation. Walkability includes not just “ability” to walk but also WHETHER people will walk. The more amenities out there the more people will actually walk, with all the resulting benefits to themselves and to society.

    One other thing that the site can’t fully consider – different people will walk different amounts. The amenities start going down in value if they’re greater than 0.25 miles away, and don’t count for anything more than 1 mile away. However, speaking for myself I think nothing of walking 1/2 mile to get somewhere and have been known to walk 1.5 or even 2 miles on a nice day. Of course, someone with physical limitations might find even 0.5 miles insurmountable.

    That’s the sort of thing that is part of a culture of a city. An anecdote: several years ago I went to a weeklong training session at Georgia Tech. There were about 30 people there from all over the country. My coworker and I, both from Philly, thought nothing of walking across campus each day (about .5 mile each way) to get from the hotel to the classroom. Georgia Tech has a beautiful campus (walkability = 100) and this was April, when Atlanta has pleasant weather.

    Every other attendee, who were from either rural areas or smaller cities, took the shuttle bus. The only explanation I could think of is that my coworker and I were both very used to walking in Center City Philly and thought nothing of walking 1/2 mile (and she and I both grew up in the suburbs, too). People from other areas just weren’t as used to walking for the sake of walking.

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  25. Bjørn Smestad says:

    I added my address in Oslo, Norway. Score: 6 out of 100. The data it depended on was totally wrong. For instance, it claims there are 8.35 km to the nearest coffee shop, forgetting one less than 1 km away. Nearest library: 7 km (in reality: about 2 km). And so on.

    It’s a cool concept, but clearly only works if Google Maps (on which it depends) includes the relevant points of interest.

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  26. Joe Pseudonym says:

    Interestingly enough, by entering the street address, I get a score of 98, whereas entering the two cross-streets on which I live gets a 91.

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  27. shawdc says:

    got a 98/100 (Washington DC along the NW/NE border). Pretty accurate, but fails to account for the fact that some streets are more like highways, complete with overhead signage. Also, kind of a tough neighborhood, and you don’t really want to be walking around at night unless you are looking to score drugs.

    Does ability to buy drugs factor in to their score? probably not, but I bet some neighborhoods would jump through the roof if they did.

    97-100, stoner’s paradise haha.

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  28. kbr says:

    got a 100 for my neighborhood! a walker’s paradise according to walk score!

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  29. luke says:

    This walk score thing can also be potentially nonsense. I tried compared the place I used to live in Toronto, within walking distance of a lot of stuff (including two shopping malls), and had a fairly low WalkScore, and many businesses which I knew where there (having walked past them in person) simply were not recognised. I then tried my parent’s home in small-town maine and had a higher walk score, where not only are there actually fewer places to head to, many are inaccessable. I’m not talking about inconvenient hills, i mean highways and, get this, rivers.

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  30. Cory says:

    This thing is WAY off. It lists a paint production plant as a “hardware store,” a convenience store as a grocery store, and “Erotic Pleasures Adult Mart” as a clothing store (and, for that matter, as a book store).

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  31. Mike B says:

    You can’t say LA is pedestrian friendly by simply quoting a single high score from where you happen to live and once again while LA is rated as the 9th most walkable city, the City of LA proper is a surprisingly small part of what the lay person would consider LA. The rankings should be composed of the entire metro area.

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  32. notmelbrooks says:

    i got a relatively high walk score. i have no sidewalks.

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  33. johnm says:

    I think this site is really cool. Of course it is not going to be 100% accurate, but it is still interesting to see the results. The results that I got seemed to be pretty good for the most part. I am sure they will make improvements to the site and am somewhat surprised at all the criticism in the comments.

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  34. RZ says:

    One more problem with walking in L.A. It can be very dangerous crossing the street, even when there is a traffic light and pedestrian crosswalk. Too many drivers assume that there are no pedestrians and just whizz through intersections, taking turns without looking for people first. I have to keep my eye out for these drivers because they certainly are not keeping their eye out for me!

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  35. June says:

    I live in Paris, France. I tried this for my neighborhood, Passy,in the 16th arrondissement and the score came up 46/100–”car dependent”. Complete nonsense. They got the supermarkets wrong, the bookstores wrong, the cinema wrong, the parks wrong, along with almost everything else. I can step out my door and walk to everything anyone could ever need in less than five minutes, including public transport. So, users, beware. Perhaps this site works better for US addresses.

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  36. Michael Nirenberg says:

    Walk Score is a good tool, but people should use it with caution. The scientific research shows high Walk Score’s may potentially in some cases correlate with crime and other undesirable parameters. Read more about a detailed analysis of Walk Score here — http://flowalking.com/2013/05/what-does-walk-score-mean-the-surprising-results-of-scientific-research/

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