Walk Score

At City Comforts I came across Walk Score, a web site that "calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc.," using Google Maps. The image below shows a location (88 Bedford Street in Manhattan's West Village) with a walk score of 100 out of 100. Trying a couple of other locations, my current address in Astoria, Queens scores 92 and my childhood home in the suburbs of Chicago scores a 57, each reflecting their respective urban/suburban conditions.
But is this scoring the best way of measuring and determining walkability? The programming includes commercial, institutional, educational, and recreational locations (a good mix), but then measures proximity based on "as the bird flies" distances, ignoring things like safety, terrain, sidewalks (or lack thereof), climate, and other pedestrian-level concerns. The comments on the City Comforts post pick up on these and other deficiencies that probably can't be addressed by this basic programming, but that should be part of the discussion on walkability. This points to walkability being more than just mixed-use zoning and proximity, but also the design of the public realm, design that hopefully takes these and other pedestrian-level concerns into account.


  1. I compared where I live now in NY to where I lived in Chicago, and new york scored higher. I thought this imbalanced, mostly because of the flaws you pointed out, but also because the in Chicago the train was a block away and now is 8 blocks.

    I also compared my apartment near the University of Cincinnati to my relatives house in Wilmington, DE. They scored essentially the same, despite that I live above a market and 3 blocks off campus. The small pocket parks near their house each counted for as much as the landscaped woods near mine, the gradeschool waas counted, but the university was not.

    On campus are multiple food stores, small markets, tech stores, and libraries. None were counted. However the 3 gas stations seemed to be a jackpot for my relatives because of the dunkin donuts, ice cream, and subway addons. Despite that the winding roads, cul de sacs, and fences made that trip .5 miles despite the advertised .2

    Without planning it, I admittedly had chosen two unlikely anomalies, but size and desired clientele seemed to throw this out of whack

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  3. I live in Denver in one of the most 'urban' neighborhoods possible around here and ended up with a score of 86, which seemed to be the best in our office (of architects who all believe in walkable communities!). So, I thought that that was pretty good until I went back through and discovered that all of the grocery stores listed were 7-11's, the libraries listed were all part of private hospitals in the neighborhood and 'Kitty's Adult Emporium' was listed both as the closest movie theater and book store. I do live in a walkable neighborhood, but going through that data made me very skeptical about what shows up on the map and how much you can trust it.

    Hopefully this is just the start of some interesting programs that can break down the health of an urban community with data.


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