Cities that make life easier for pedestrians are, to many, better places to live. Studies have shown that walkable urban areas are healthier, wealthier and safer (perhaps in part because wealthy people can afford to live in nicer places)—and anyway, who doesn’t want to go outside every once in a while?
If getting around without a car appeals, you should head to New York City or San Francisco (if you can afford either). That’s according to a new ranking of the most walkable large US cities by Redfin, a real estate analysis website and brokerage.
The site uses something it calls Walk Score, an algorithm to measure how convenient it is to do daily errands without wheels, on a 100-point scale. It doesn’t take into account public transit systems (there’s a different score for that), but looks at things like the walking distance to schools, restaurants, and grocery stores, from any given point.
“It’s a population-rated average, sampled at every block,” explains Matt Lerner, VP of products at Redfin. “We’re basically sampling the walk score for every block in the city, weighted by the number of people who live there.” Cities are scored by where the population is, and aren’t penalized for non-walkable areas like shipping ports, industrial districts, and airports.
Most of the cities in the Redfin top 10 are unsurprising. NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington D.C. all got big before the automobile age, so they were made for moving on foot. But the top scores for Miami, Oakland, and Seattle point to the fact that history isn’t all that matters. Cities can change to cater to pedestrians instead of, or at least in addition to, cars.
Lots of cities have become more pedestrian-friendly since Redfin’s last rankings, in 2011. Four years ago, New York City and San Francisco had basically the same score (about 85). Now, the Big Apple’s several points up, thanks to pro-walking efforts like booting cars out of Times Square, Lerner says.
Detroit didn’t crack the top ten, but its score went up 2.2 points, to 52.2, in part thanks to the downtown arrival of big companies like Quicken Loans, bringing restaurants, shops, and businesses with them. New Orleans’ score rose nearly a point, as it develops more affordable housing and revitalizes commercial districts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Miami has seen a surge of development, with new mixed-use commercial and residential areas opening up in the past few years. So there’s good news for pedestrians all over the country.
If you’re only interested in a top 10 walkable city, here’s who came out on top:
New York: 87.6
San Francisco: 83.9
Washington, D.C.: 74.1