New York Rightfully Takes Over Top Spot on Walk Score

New York's least walkable areas are in Staten Island and Eastern Queens, according to ##http://www.walkscore.com/NY/New_York##updated Walk Score data.##

Step aside, San Francisco!

Walk Score, the website that ranks locations, neighborhoods and cities based on the number of amenities within walking distance and the pedestrian-friendliness of the street network, has come out with its first new city rankings since 2008. Based on updated listings and new Census data, New York City has taken over the top spot from the former West Coast champ.

The gap between the top two cities is slight, however, only 0.4 points out of 100. So Walk Score is opening the question of who’s the most walkable up to the public. San Francisco is currently winning in the online balloting. We here at Streetsblog New York are unwilling to let that stand, however. Here’s why:

First, while Walk Score’s methodology is impressively constructed, the ultimate measure of walkability is the amount of walking. According to the Census, slightly more New Yorkers walked to work between 2005 and 2009 than San Franciscans. Far more rode transit, which usually includes a walk on either end of the trip.

Another metric that isn’t included in Walk Score’s calculations is pedestrian safety. New York City has a lower traffic fatality rate than San Francisco [PDF], with pedestrians representing a roughly equivalent share of fatalities in each city.

Finally, all the walkability in San Francisco just doesn’t add up to that much compared to New York City. The entire city has a population of 805,000. The population of Manhattan alone is roughly double that, and there’s not a single neighborhood on the island that doesn’t have a Walk Score high above San Francisco’s. Sure, Staten Island drags down New York’s walkability, but according to Wikipedia, it’s nine times more densely populated than San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco.

There’s a lot New York City should do to make it more walkable. But compared to any other big American city, it’s not even close.

  • Joe R.

    I kind of take issue with lack of walkability here in Eastern Queens.  There are sidewalks on just about every street.  Probably the distances are an issue here.  A lot of walks between residential and shopping areas are on the order of a mile or more round trip (a warmup for me but I can see how that might be an issue for the elderly or disabled).  Still, if walking a couple of miles is within your physical capability, Eastern Queens is very walkable.  My mom walked once to a doctor’s appointment on Northern Blvd when she was 68.  Just for kicks, I rode later that day to measure the distance.  It was 7 miles round trip.  I usually walk to downtown Flushing (6 miles round trip) instead of taking the bus.  With the waiting time, the bus ride often only beats walking by 5 to 10 minutes. 

  • It would be nice if they had info for non-U.S. cities too, as many seem to be much better in this respect than even the most “walkable” U.S. cities.

  • Bolwerk

    I have a hard time taking this personally.  Like you guys say, the problem is with walkscore’s criteria, not any objective or subjective advantage SF has – and I can’t see it having either. Either way, SF isn’t a bad place for walking.  This would actually be offensive if LA beat NYC.

  • Danny G

    That’s great for people who enjoy walking (myself included), but difficult for people who don’t like walking, or simply want the most time-efficient method of transport. In outlying Queens, that usually means car, but bicycling (especially when combined with catching the bus right on time) is also a convenient option.

  • Joe R.

    Bicycling here would be a perfect fit EXCEPT for the lack of safe off-street bicycle parking.  I’ve been saying over and over again that stores here could put a small bike rack in front near the security scanners, right where the security guard usually stands.  My brother used to run a lot of bike errands as a teenager.  After having 3 bikes stolen while chained outside, I started accompanying him just to watch his bike while he was in the store.  I think bike parking is the key here more than bike lanes.  I can live without bike lanes, but if I’m to use my bike for anything more than recreation, I want to have options to park off the street where I know it won’t get stolen.  I’d love to take my bike to downtown Flushing, for example, but there’s no place I can put it where I trust it’ll still be there.

  • Joe R.

    Bicycling here would be a perfect fit EXCEPT for the lack of safe off-street bicycle parking.  I’ve been saying over and over again that stores here could put a small bike rack in front near the security scanners, right where the security guard usually stands.  My brother used to run a lot of bike errands as a teenager.  After having 3 bikes stolen while chained outside, I started accompanying him just to watch his bike while he was in the store.  I think bike parking is the key here more than bike lanes.  I can live without bike lanes, but if I’m to use my bike for anything more than recreation, I want to have options to park off the street where I know it won’t get stolen.  I’d love to take my bike to downtown Flushing, for example, but there’s no place I can put it where I trust it’ll still be there.

  • Joe R.

    Bicycling here would be a perfect fit EXCEPT for the lack of safe off-street bicycle parking.  I’ve been saying over and over again that stores here could put a small bike rack in front near the security scanners, right where the security guard usually stands.  My brother used to run a lot of bike errands as a teenager.  After having 3 bikes stolen while chained outside, I started accompanying him just to watch his bike while he was in the store.  I think bike parking is the key here more than bike lanes.  I can live without bike lanes, but if I’m to use my bike for anything more than recreation, I want to have options to park off the street where I know it won’t get stolen.  I’d love to take my bike to downtown Flushing, for example, but there’s no place I can put it where I trust it’ll still be there.

  • Mark Walker

    The Walk Score is a great way to introduce car-dependent people to the concept of car-free living. It may not be perfect, but don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

  • lol… the way you phrase it here is pretty funny … like “OMG! it’s possible to walk?! OMG OMG”

    [er, not criticizing!  I really did laugh…]

  • Matthew Roth

    Not so fast, Mr. Kazis. I think you’re suffering from a bit of the “World as Seen from 9th Ave” syndrome.
    http://bigthink.com/ideas/21121

    I agree with you that “the ultimate measure of walkability is the amount of walking.” But you can’t just say there are twice as many Manhattanites as San Franciscans, so there’s twice as much walking, can you? Shouldn’t it be rate, not cumulative? I haven’t pored over the methodology, but I imagine they address this issue.

    And if you want Staten Island to become part of Jersey to bring your score up, I think you’ve got a lot of political lifting to do.

    Besides, you lightweights have no hills. Maybe we should just compare the sizes of our calves and hammies? 🙂

  • Thought I’d pop over here and defend my city a bit. Of course Manhattan is the walking capital of the nation (though I’m less familiar with New York’s other boroughs.) When I’m there, I walk miles, partly because I’m too cheap for cabs, partly because you can’t see much when you’re underground on the subway.  My only trouble with Manhattan is at times the sidewalks are so congested you can hardly get through and it becomes very stressful. Though San Francisco doesn’t have nearly the density, it can be the same way in Chinatown and Union Square. So for the true great walking cities like San Francisco and New York, I think Walk Score should take into account the walking experience itself and deduct points if an area is often congested to unpleasantness. (Obviously each city should reduce car lanes/car parking and extend sidewalks to improve the walking experience. San Francisco has done a tiny little bit of this in the new quasi-parklet on Powell near Union Square. But we should make Grant Street in Chinatown pedestrian-only and extend many sidewalks in Chinatown as well.) 

    As to walking in San Francisco, we have the hills that some find onerous but the marvelous benefit of the views and the light. (Sadly, I don’t imagine Walk Score cares much about light, either.)

  • “Besides, you lightweights have no hills.”

    You should visit Upper Manhattan sometime. The year I lived in Central Harlem, part of my commute involved walking about 200 meters over which there was 20 meters’ elevation gain; since the sidewalks were adjacent to a park or empty lots, the snow was not removed from them in winter, and after a few days they were extremely slippery. While I’m sure San Francisco has steeper hills than this, I’m even surer they do not have black ice on them.

  • mysterious

    NYC is definitely more walkable than San Francisco for about 4 months out of the year. The other 8 months are either wet, too hot, or too cold. SF weather is perpetually mild compared to here. It is certainly easier to walk in NYC, but the vistas from the hills in SF really add to the experience of the urban hikera. NYC is a better walking town in terms of practicality. San Francisco is a better walking town in terms of aesthetic value (IMO obvi)

  • Guest

    New York and SF have different political boundries. A sensible way to compare them would be SF=Manhattan, Oakland = Jersey City, etc.

  • Well if you include small towns, Hoboken beets both SF and NYC with as score of 92. :)-

  • Well if you include small towns, Hoboken beets both SF and NYC with as score of 92. :)-

  • Anon

    I’d like to see walkscore rank metropolitan areas

  • Bolwerk

    Actually, Manhattan possibly means “island of hills.” Many were leveled starting early in the city’s history, but they are impressive in Upper Manhattan. 

  • reZz

    Walking in NYC would be great, but its full of New Yorkers

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