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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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