With $4.00 gallons of gasoline and radiant 80-degree springtime days, I've been contemplating the benefits of walking more and driving less.
The downtown area of San Carlos, my Northern California city, is robust and compact, and all the businesses I frequent - Starbucks, liquor store, barbecue joint, and bank - are centrally located and just a few blocks apart.
Unfortunately, this concentrated hub of downtown activity is a three-mile hike from the condo where I live, just "up the hill." I point out that my neighborhood is uphill, because as I recall from the last time I walked home from downtown San Carlos, the incline is approximately 90º (that means completely vertical, right?).
So, I compromise. I drive the short distance to downtown, and then I walk - like a New Yorker on his way to work each morning, or a Los Angeleno on his way...from the Nordstrom's end of the mall back to the parking garage...I walk.
How about you? Have sunny days and President Obama's gasoline price conspiracy (calm down liberals, I kid) inspired you to walk a little more? Are there a few places you wouldn't mind walking to, or are you stuck with too many hills and roadside footpaths right in the middle of suburban sprawl?
Walkscore.com rates cities and towns on their walkability, and not surprisingly, major metro areas get the highest marks. Bigger urban centers, cities with bonafide mass transit options and actual paved sidewalks, are obviously easier to navigate sans auto than smaller towns. On the walkscore.com scale, Boston, San Francisco, and New York scored in the 80s, while the top 2,500 most populous cities received an average walkability rating of 43.
If you're wondering about your city's rating, check out the very cool "walk score" interactive chart. You can manipulate the results to make comparisons by population or geographic region, and then sort them any way you'd like.
For those of you who are curious, my tiny city of San Carlos (population: 30,000) scored 51.5, a rating apparently applied to smaller towns that have an urban feel, but that still require a short car ride to pick up a gallon of milk.