Ten Most Walkable Cities in America

January 8, 2013 by

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Photo: Iviak via Flickr

Did you know that people in walkable neighborhoods weigh on average 6-10 pounds less than folks in less walkable communities? Or that walkable places make you happier and healthier and short commutes reduce stress and increase community involvement? Walkable cities offer surprising benefits, not just for our health, but for the environment, our finances, and our communities.

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Photo: Troy McCullough via Flickr

Walk Score is a site where you can peruse which cities in the United States which have the highest walkability scores and even search for apartments by commute time, proximity to public transit and places like coffee shops, grocery stores, schools, and availability of car shares.

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Photo: Damien Rees via Flickr

What Makes Cities Walkable 
City Center Whether it’s a main street or a public space.
People Enough for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
Mixed Income, Mixed Use Affordable housing located near businesses.
Parks and Public Space Plenty of public places to gather and play.
Pedestrian Design Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
Nearby Schools and Workplaces Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
Complete Streets Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

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Photo: Manhattan Walks

The Top Ten Most Walkable Cities in America
Ranking addresses on a scale between 0 and 100 (100 being highest rank), the site offers insights into walkable and bike-friendly places to live and shares what makes a city most walkable.

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Most Walkable Cities
So, what is the most walkable large city in the country? That would be New York City, with a Walk Score of 85. And if you would like to explore the city on foot, the site designates these New York neighborhoods as walker’s paradises: Little ItalySoHoFlatiron District, Greenwich Village, and NoHo, each scoring a perfect 100 as neighborhoods where daily errands do not require a car.

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Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens

I might add that one of my favorite haunts too, New York’s East Village, is pretty walkable and the neighborhood includes a large number of wonderful community gardens worth visiting, not to mention some fabulous offbeat shops and great little restaurants.

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Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens

If you come to New York City for the first time, through Big Apple Greeter you can request a real New Yorker to take you around the city  for free. If you would rather go it alone, the site offers neighborhood profiles allowing you to explore before you go.

Walkability of Celebrity Neighborhoods
Just for fun, if you happen to be interested in the walkability of a celebrity’s neighborhood,  the site includes a pull-down menu enabling this exploration. Bill Gates’s Medina, Washington neighborhood scores a mere 9, which means it is car-dependent–highly car dependent considering the highest score possible is 100. The Brady Bunch House in Hollywood, California scores 69, revealing that the neighborhood is “somewhat walkable.” But the Brady kids would have been better of walking than biking, as the area has bikeability score of just 48–meaning it is mostly flat, without many bike lanes.

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Photo: Adam Fagan via Flickr

Most Bikeable Cities
The site also rates cities by bikeability, and just as you can for walking time, you can search the site for apartments and rentals by cycling time. “Very bikeable” Minneapolis ranks number one as the most bikeable city, with a score of 79. New York City, with a score of 62, ranks nine out of the country’s most bikeable large cities, just ahead of Chicago (which also scores 62, but I couldn’t decipher what accounted for New York’s higher rank.)

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Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton, Urban Gardens

This May, when New York City implements Citi Bike, it’s much talked about bike share program, it will be time to re-examine the city’s core.

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Photo: Buck Ennis, Crains NY

I for one, will brave my fear of getting mowed down by a bus or taxi to try out the bike share program. What about you, walker or cyclist or both?

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