Walkable neighborhoods

I saw this website again today; I’d seen it and bookmarked it some time ago, but I’d forgotten about it.  It’s called Walkscore, and it rates your neighborhood on a scale of 1 to 100 for its walkability.  I tested my address again today, and it rated my neighborhood at 38/100 = car-dependent.  I don’t know what the score has to be to be non-car-dependent; probably at least over 50.

Here are the categories it looked at:  grocery store (Publix), 0.5 miles; 6 restaurants within 0.5 miles; Starbucks, 0.4 miles; movie theater, 2 miles; schools – elementary school, 0.6 miles; high school, 0.6 miles; 5 parks within 1 mile; closest library 1.2 miles; hardware store, 1.5 miles; gym, 1 mile; drug store (Walgreens), 0.6 miles; two shoe stores, 0.5 miles. 

This was interesting, but not entirely accurate.  It didn’t note the presence of a Beall’s department store, with clothes and household goods.  They said the closest hardware store and library were under 1.5 miles, but there is a big obstacle in the way: the Intracoastal Waterway.  If you were going to get to either of those in under 1.5 miles, you’d have to swim.  Otherwise they’re both about 4 miles away.  They also have listed a hardware store that was destroyed in Hurricane Frances.  The library I use is about 2.7 miles away; doable for me, but not necessarily for everyone.  (Besides, I work at a library.)

Two of the restaurants they listed were Quizno’s and Subway; two others were in hotels, where no self-respecting local would ever be caught dead.  However, they missed Ruby Tuesday’s, which is 0.5 miles away, in the same shopping plaza as Publix.  They actually had two Walgreens listed at the same distance – only problem is, one of them is a Walgreens liquor store.  Although, I guess they do have some substances that some people consider medicinal…

They didn’t list categories for: churches (a Catholic church, about 2 miles away, a United Methodist church, about 2 miles in the other direction, and a nondenominational one, about 2.5 miles), doctor’s offices (0.5 miles, 1.5 miles), banks (1 mile, right next to the gym), or dentists (about 2.5 miles).  They didn’t mention the cool water park that’s right next to the movie theater.  They don’t seem to have any way to determine the amount of crime in a neighborhood, and they don’t mention what is possibly the most important factor of all in the walkability of my neighborhood – the beach, just 0.1 miles from my front door. 

This would be misleading for someone who was planning to move here.  I wonder how they determine their listings?  Maybe businesses have to pay to be listed, which would explain the absence of churches – but how would a park get listed, then?  And why would Quizno’s pay, but Ruby Tuesday’s wouldn’t??

For me, if I didn’t have to work, I could get to everything I needed on foot except my doctors and dentist (there are doctors and dentists within walking distance, but they’re not the ones I go to).  There’s even a hospital that takes my insurance within walking distance – although if you need a hospital, chances are you wouldn’t be on foot.  However, if I was alone, I wouldn’t try to walk to any of these places after dark.  With two or more people it’s okay, but not by yourself.  This site doesn’t tell you that.

So, if you’re going to use this site to rate the walkability of a neighborhood that you’re planning to move to, it might give you a general idea – but if it’s imperative to you that certain things are within walking distance, you’d better go there and check it out yourself.

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