Walking is not the norm in America’s cities. We’re a car-dependent nation according to Walk Score’s average ranking of the largest 2,500 U.S. cities.
But analysis from Richard Florida shows some surprising characteristics of the walkable big cities in the U.S. Florida took the 50 largest cities and analyzed the relationship between their walkability and key economic and demographic characteristics. Writing for The Atlantic Cities, here’s what Florida found:
Interestingly, walkability was not more prevalent in warmer places. Walkability was less common in places with very hot summers (with a correlation of -.52 to mean July temperature) but had no statistical association to places with milder winters (measured as mean January temperature). While this may seem counter-intuitive at first, it actually makes sense. Most of the U.S.’s warmer cities are located in the south or the Sunbelt; they developed later than their older and denser counterparts in the Frostbelt, when the highway and the car were already ascendant. Walkability is more common in denser (.56) and larger metropolitan areas (.56), whether the weather encourages it or not. Walkability is also more common in metros where commutes are longer on average (.50). This may also seem counter-intuitive until you realize that places with longer commutes are likely to be both larger and denser than others.
Florida also found correlations between walkable cities and higher rates of educated people, wages, housing values, and greater levels of innovation and more high-tech companies. It’s doesn’t come as a surprise that these walkable cities also have vibrant economies. And high home values in these places is no surprise given that these are often the desirable places in cities that are close to transit.
But it’s not just the city where we’re seeing increased walkability. Florida continues:
More and more of our most desirable suburban communities look more like cities, with bustling town centers alive with pedestrian life, while our best city neighborhoods have taken on many of the characteristics we used to see as the province of suburbs: good schools, green spaces, safe streets, and family life.
We might still be a car-dependent nation, but at least we’re seeing positive trends in walkability.
Photo: Dan Nguyen/Flickr