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Right of Way: 10 Best U.S. Cities for Pedestrians

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Right of Way: 10 Best U.S. Cities for Pedestrians

When most people think of suburban life, they probably think of tree-lined streets, large lots with ample backyards, and minivans carpooling kids to school. While they were once considered the ideal location to raise a family, suburbs as we know it are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Years ago, people did everything they could to get away from the big city, and many middle-and upper-class families moved to the ‘burbs while commuting downtown for work. Today, younger buyers are looking for something more. Gone are the days of cul-de-sacs and a culture built around the automobile. People want to get out and about. They don’t want to drive to the grocery store or to the park, they want to have all these urban amenities within walking distance.

Home buying trends show that younger buyers prefer areas close to mass transit and shopping. We live in a world where gas prices are rising higher and higher without any sign of slowing down, and warnings about the necessity of getting out and exercising are becoming more insistent. It comes as no surprise  then, that people might want to ditch their long commutes in favor of taking a leisurely stroll to their destination and skipping a traffic-laden twice-daily trip.

Areas which are more walkable tend to demand higher rents and home prices so a city can benefit from creating a walkable city through higher real estate values, fewer health care costs, less smog, and a stronger economy.

Walk Score is a site that compiles data and ranks city in a number of areas, including those that are the most walkable. For each city, Walk Score analyzes hundreds of walking routes to nearby amenities, and points are awarded based on the distance to them. Amenities within a five minute walk (.25 miles) are given maximum points, and walks taking longer than 30 minutes are given no points whatsoever. Cities are also ranked by pedestrian friendliness – which considers factors like population density – and road metrics such as block length to determine the most walkable cities. A score of 90-100 is considered a “Walker’s Paradise” where daily errands do not require a car. From there, a score of 70-89 is considered “Very Walkable” with the ability to complete most errands on foot. And as far as the top 10 goes, not a single city goes lower than the next level, “Somewhat Walkable”, with a score of 50-69, meaning some errands can be accomplished on foot, but not all or even most.

10. Baltimore – Walk Score: 66.2

Baltimore

Baltimore is a harbor city with ties to the American Revolution. It’s also a revitalization success story. The former steel town has transformed itself into a top-notch city that allows residents to get around with ease. Baltimore also ranks high for it’s transit, and it’s said that most families in Baltimore only have to walk about 5 minutes to get to a restaurant, grocery store or other daily necessity. Of course, some neighborhoods are better than others, and the top neighborhoods are ranked within the top cities. Mount Vernon, Downtown, and Midtown Belvedere come in as the top three most walkable neighborhoods in this historic city.

9. Oakland – Walk Score: 68.9

Oakland

With proximity to San Francisco, a city known for it’s top-of-the-line transit system, Oakland is really coming into its own these days. Once considered a rough area, this ethnically diverse city is becoming a cultural haven and is home to all sorts, including those who work in the ridiculously expensive Silicon Valley. Many parts of the Bay Area are great for those who want to live without a car, and Oakland is one of the most walkable of them.  The Oakland neighborhoods with the highest Walk Scores include Civic Center, Chinatown, and Downtown.

8. Seattle – Walk Score: 70.8

Seattle

This rainy Northwestern city has become a popular place to which to relocate, partly due to jobs at behemoth companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks. But there’s also a charm to this city, including the nearby Olympic and Cascade mountains, Lake Washington, and the Puget Sound. Not to mention, Seattle is also a top-notch city for transit, and when combined with the walkability factor, this is a city where one could  easily live without a car if needed. Of course, you’d have to put up with the rain and always pack an umbrella – there’s measurable rainfall an average of 140 days out of the year. The most walkable neighborhoods in Seattle include Downtown, Denny Triangle, and Pioneer Square.

7. Washington D.C. – Walk Score: 74.1

Washington DC

Washington D.C. is another city with a terrific transit system in place, but there are also plenty of neighborhoods that make it easy to walk wherever you need to go. D.C. is the first city on the list to be considered “Very Walkable.” In Washington D.C., some of the most walkable neighborhoods include Dupont Circle, Chinatown, and the U Street Corridor.

6. Chicago – Walk Score: 74.8

Chicago

There’s always a wealth of things to do in Chicago. The Windy City boasts beaches, the Wrigley Field, Navy Pier, and Millennium Park, just to name a few activities that are easy to enjoy while visiting downtown. The city, as with many on this list, also has one of the country’s leading public transport systems, making it easy to enjoy a night out on the town. Chicago, like D.C., is a city that’s considered “Very Walkable” and most errands can be accomplished on foot. Some of the best neighborhoods for walkers include Near North, Printers Row and the Gold Coast.

5. Miami – Walk Score: 75.6

Miami

Who wouldn’t love to traipse around this sunny Florida city? Not only is it a vacationers’ paradise, it’s also a city that makes it easy to get around on foot. Like Chicago and D.C., Miami is considered “Very Walkable.” Not only is Miami known for its beautiful beaches, it’s also known for its exciting nightlife. And thankfully, the city makes it easy to get around so you can hit up all the hottest spots. The best cities for walkability include Downtown, Little Havana, and Wynwood/Edgewater.

4. Philadelphia – Walk Score : 76.5

Philadelphia

Home of the delightful Philly Cheesesteak, Philadelphia is one class act city. Whether you’re in University City, home of the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, or in hip Passyunk with its coffee shops, boutiques, and gastropubs, there’s always something to do in this historical city. And if you’re looking for the most walkable neighborhoods in one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S., look no further than Center City East, Center City West, or the Wharton/Hawthorne/Bella Vista areas.

3. Boston – Walk Score: 79.5

Boston

Boston isn’t called “The Walking City” for nothing! Boston is a pedestrian’s dream come true, allowing tourists and locals alike the ability to walk through the historic city and see world- famous sights such as Fenway Park or Boston Common, America’s oldest public park. And if you’re looking for the best cities for walkers in Boston, look to North End, Chinatown, and Bay Village, among others, though it’s likely hard to go wrong in this city as most errands can be accomplished on foot throughout the city as a whole.

2. San Francisco – Walk Score: 83.9

San francisco

Like many other cities on this list, San Francisco is also known for having incredible public transport. But beyond that, the city is also one of the healthiest in the country for a reason: It’s incredibly walkable. And not only is the city friendly for pedestrians, the temperate weather makes it easy to get out and about year round. People in San Francisco can walk to an average of 2 restaurants, bars, and coffee shops within 5 minutes. If you can’t walk there, chances are you can hop on any number of transit options from cable cars to the BART. If you’re looking for the best of the best as far as walkability goes, you should check out Chinatown, the Financial District and Downtown. Not many neighborhoods can boast a perfect Walk Score, but Chinatown is among them with a perfect transit score as well.

1. New York City – Walk Score: 87.6

New York

New York is not only the biggest city in the United States, it’s also the most walkable too. On average, people in New York can walk to 13 different restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, all within 5 minutes. And several of its neighborhoods have perfect Walk Scores of 100, including Little Italy, Chinatown, NoHo, the Flatiron District, and SoHo, making the Big Apple one of the best cities to get around in. Not to mention, it’s also a great city for transit and for biking, too. In New York, there really is very little need for a car to travel within the city.

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