I just found the most amazing resource on the web: Walkscore.com

This absolutely brilliant webpage uses google maps and business listings to rate neighborhoods for their “walkability. ” The score is determined by an algorithm based on:

  • The distance to walkable locations near an address.
  • Calculating a score for each of these locations.
  • Combining these scores into one easy to read Walk Score.

The scale:

  • 90 – 100 = Walkers’ Paradise: Most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people get by without owning a car.
  • 70 – 90 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.
  • 50 – 70 = Some Walkable Locations: Some stores and amenities are within walking distance, but many everyday trips still require a bike, public transportation, or car.
  • 25 – 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.
  • 0 – 25 = Driving Only: Virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. You can walk from your house to your car!

The house I grew up in, located in suburban West End Henrico, scores an abysmal 23. My current address thankfully scores a 74- I’ve chosen where I live because I want to run errands without a car!

I can’t find a Richmond address that scores in the 90’s- are there any? The scores of some popular Richmond neighborhoods, listed in descending order of walkability:

Carytown (address I used: 3200 Parkwood): 85
Jackson Ward (100 W. Marshall): 78
Church Hill (25th & Broad): 72
Fan (1800 Grove): 71
Bellevue (1400 Bellevue Ave): 57
Woodland Heights (300 W. 28th): 35

The flaws in determining scores are readily acknowledged by the creators:

There are a number of factors that contribute to walkability that are not part of our algorithm:

  • Street width and block length: Narrow streets slow down traffic. Short blocks make it easier to navigate the grid.
  • Safety: How much crime is in the neighborhood? How many traffic accidents are there? Are crosswalks well marked and streets well lit?
  • Pedestrian-friendly design: Are there walking paths? Are buildings close to the sidewalk with parking in back? Are sidewalks shaded by trees?
  • Topography: Hills can make walking difficult, especially if you’re carrying groceries.
  • Public transit: Good public transit is important for walkable neighborhoods.
  • Freeways and bodies of water: Freeways can divide neighborhoods. Swimming is harder than walking.
  • Weather: In some places it’s just too hot or cold to walk regularly.

As MarlonBain said, “You should use the Web 3.0 app called going outside and investigating the world for yourself” before deciding whether a neighborhood is walkable!

Also a factor is google’s methods of determining distance. They currently offers only two calculations: “as the crow flies” and driving distance. Walkscore.com has chosen “as the crow flies,” distorting some neighborhoods’ scores.

Distance: We are currently using “as the crow flies” distances rather than walking directions. This means if you live across the lake from a destination, we are assuming you will swim. We are investigating using Google Driving Directions to calculate our distances. Hopefully, Google will add Walking Directions in the future!

And also, google’s business listings are not complete- Bellevue, for example, scores lower than it should as Stir Crazy doesn’t show up, making the closest coffee shop 2 miles away.

Sometimes google’s categories are just plain bizarre: the Richmond Braves are listed as a park, while Bryan Park is not! Convenience stores are tagged as grocery stores.

Nevertheless, this is a great resource that will hopefully have the kinks worked out soon.