A website that evaluates how easy it is to get around on foot in the largest US cities has released its annual list of the most walkable cities.
The Seattle-based Walkscore.com uses Google Maps to calculate your neighborhood's proximity to nearby amenities. The closer a shop, restaurant, school, or park is to where you live, the more points the neighborhood gets.
According to this algorithm, the 10 most walkable cities are:
1. San Francisco
2. New York
8. Long Beach, Calif.
9. Los Angeles
10. Portland, Ore.
And the 10 least walkable cities are:
31. El Paso, Texas
32. San Antonio, Texas
33. Fort Worth, Texas
34. Kansas City, Mo.
35. Memphis, Tenn.
36. Oklahoma City
38. Charlotte, N.C.
39. Nashville, Tenn.
40. Jacksonville, Fla.
I checked my own apartment in Somerville, Mass., and I was pleased to find that I got a score of 91 out of 100 – a "walker's paradise."
I'm delighted at my 'hood's high marks, but I noticed a few flaws with their system. First off, it's only as good as Google Maps in telling you what's nearby. In my case, it left out several nearby shops and restaurants. Also, Walkscore doesn't take proximity to public transit into account, nor does it rank the quality of public transit. And all of its distance measurements are in a straight line, meaning that it doesn't distinguish between walking on a sidewalk, crossing an interstate, or swimming across a lake.
Walkscore is well aware of these shortcomings. On their How It Doesn't Work page, it admits that, like all computer models, it's just an approximation. To get a more accurate reading, they suggest that you "use the Web 3.0 app called going outside."