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.