When SNEWS® heard about Walkscore.com, a website that rates the walkability of your neighborhood or city, we had to give it a whirl. Heck, our offices are in the rural Sierra Nevadas of Northern California. But wait … being in a beautiful place doesn't mean a place is walkable.
In fact, SNEWS® headquarters earned the big GOOSE EGG -- 0 of 100 possible points. Why? Because there are no services or retail within what is considered a walkable distance for basic errands and needs, based on Google maps and landmarks listed such as bookstores, coffee shops, grocery stores and the like. The site uses a patent-pending algorithm to calculate your score.
But Walkscore (www.walkscore.com) doesn't nix a place completely based on that. It says, "The walkability of an address depends on how far you are comfortable walking -- after all, everything is within walking distance if you have the time."
Sure, we have time, are fit and are willing and able to walk pretty darn far for fun. But nevertheless, we can't pop out for groceries, dash over to the post office, or nip out for a quick lunch by foot. The closest, well, anything is about four miles.
Why does this matter? Being able to walk for these things is good for your fitness, your health, local business and the environment. Studies (many cited on Walkscore) have shown that over and over. For example, a study in Washington found the average resident of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood weighs seven pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. The website also noted that residents of walkable neighborhoods drive less and suffer fewer car accidents.
Ah, but never fear, the folks at Walkscore are realists. They are upfront with what doesn't work on the site, for example, they can't determine street width, the availability of sidewalks or crosswalks, topography or weather.
Go ahead, give it a whirl and put in your address, your friends' addresses, your address when you were a kid, whatever address you want. And then poke around the site to learn more about what makes a neighborhood walkable (mixed use, parks, etc.) and what your score means (90-100 is a "walkers' paradise" -- we can dream) and doesn't mean (maybe walking longer distances is possible).