Wednesday, April 18, 2012

. . . and You'll be WALKING to Notting . . . ham has made a very big deal out of walking as of late. As in we, as Americans, do not do enough walking.
On that, I agree – though my wife and I go for at least three good, hour-long walks each week. Moving around a lot (or not enough) is a serious problem – something I recognize as I sit behind a desk for more than 40 hours a week. I know I feel better on the days when I’m able to get out of my cubicle and do some walking, even if it’s as I pursue my other duties at work.
But then turns to Walkscore, and with the quantifying of “walkable” neighborhoods files completely off the deep end.

An example: We recently moved from Sugar City, Idaho, to Ammon, Idaho. Both towns, in my estimation, are extremely walkable. From our current home, we can get to our kids’ school, two grocery stores, several restaurants, a hardware store, three big box stores and any other number of amenities ranging from parks to a swimming pool to a big empty field where the kids can run around shouting “walla walla walla walla” if they want to. Our neighborhood nets a paltry 26 from Walkscore – telling us we’re in a car-dependent neighborhood.

Even more laughable is that our old neighborhood scores nearly twice as high as a walkable neighborhood (a 45 versus a 26) even though – and Walkscore would know this if they ever visited the place – there’s a lot LESS stuff worth walking to in Sugar City than there is in Ammon.

This, in my eye, casts doubt on the databases Walkscore uses to make its calculations.

Plugging in another address we lived at – near downtown Rexburg, Idaho – is even more enlightening. This address gets a Walkscore of 89.

There are lots of destinations within a short distance of our old house there – never mind that I couldn’t stand upright in the basement because the ceiling was too low. So it gets a good walkability score. Thing is, when we lived in Rexburg (a town of about 26,000) we walked everywhere, even distant places. We could walk across the whole town in less than an hour. In my eyes, that town is entirely walkable.

Granted, where we live now we have to walk sometimes a mile one way to get to some of these destinations. But you know what – a two-mile round trip isn’t all that bad. Apparently it is to Walkscore – we should have many, many more of these amenities within a shorter walking distance in order for our neighborhood to be walkable.

Feh, I say. Walkability certainly does depend on proximity – walking to a library from where we live, for instance, isn’t doable, nor are there art galleries and such within the neighborhood – but there are other aspects of walkability that I think Walkscore isn’t taking into consideration.

How far is an individual willing to walk? We’re willing to walk pretty far, and without complaint. We enjoy it. And from what I can tell, the folks who live in the cities in France in which I also lived also enjoyed walking, even if they had to walk a long time to get to their destinations. So freaking out because Walkscore deigns your neighborhood as unwalkable is unthinkable.

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