A couple of months ago, I came across a web site that works with Google Maps to evaluate how pedestrian-friendly our address is. The more amenities (shops, restaurants, grocers, parks, libraries, fitness centers. etc.) that you can reach within a reasonable radius, the higher your ‘walk score’. Up until recently, there was a glitch in the system that kept it from doing an accurate plot of where addresses were in Canada, but after I alerted them, they’ve fixed the problem (it involved some incorrect conversion of kilometers to miles, an issue that has been known to crash Mars probes, among other things). Now, it’s spot on, and I was pleased to see that our address has a walk score of 88 out of a possible 100.
When I checked our old address, Lilac Court in Cambridge, MA, at Walk Score, we actually had a slightly higher score of 95 (again, out of 100), but that decrease by 7 points hardly feels very significant. When I lived at 2 Chester Street, also in Cambridge, the score was 91, and in undergraduate school, when I lived at 616 Straight Street in Cincinnati, my score was 72. I think my all-time low score (a 0, of course) must have been when I lived on Forest Lawn Road, just outside of Rochester, New York. The closest place to there, on foot, was a bar, well over a mile away along a road with no sidewalk.
As Walk Score points out, “Buying a house in a walkable neighborhood is good for your health and good for the environment.” It’s probably worth adding that these days, with the price of gas being what it is, that it’s clearly good for your wallet as well.
When we first moved here and didn’t have a car, I lost a lot of weight, mainly from the amount of walking we did. We walked everywhere, both for shopping and to get to know the area. Despite not getting to see as much of Vancouver as we might have, I certainly was healthier. After nearly a year of commuting (mostly by car) to IBM, I really put on the pounds, and it’s tough to get them back off again.
Try out their site, and see how your neighborhood fares. In most cases, you’ll probably be able to predict the score, but once or twice I was surprised by either how much lower or higher the score was from what I’d thought it would be.