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NOTCOT(the fabulous site by my friend, Jean Aw and colleagues) did a nice feature story on this cool site, so I am reprinting it here.
Jean Aw: "Odds are if you are reading this, you PROBABLY should check the Walk Score of your current location and get walking. I mean seriously, we spend a bit too much time at our computers… well me at least. Apparently my current walkscore is well in the green, at 88% - what is that, a B+? A-? Its been a long time since i’ve thought about grades. “70 - 90 = Very Walkable: It’s possible to get by without owning a car.”
This is an interesting mashup - Walk Score uses a patent-pending algorithm to calculate the walkability of an address 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. More details below on how the calculate an areas walkability…"
From Walk Score:
Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stroll home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don’t own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors.
What makes a neighborhood walkable?
Walkable communities tend to have the following characteristics:
* A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it’s a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.
* Density: The neighborhood is compact, rather than spread out, which brings people closer to stores and jobs and makes public transportation more cost effective.
* Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other.
* Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play.
* Accessibility: The neighborhood is accessible to everyone and has wheelchair access, plenty of benches with shade, sidewalks on all streets, etc.
* Well connected, speed controlled streets: Streets form a connected grid that improves traffic by providing many routes to any destination. Streets are narrow to control speed, and shaded by trees to protect pedestrians.
* Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back.
* Close schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
They even have a page of “How it doesn’t work”