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Jennifer Karkar Ritchie, 206-932-2454
Location: Seattle, WA
Is your neighborhood a walker’s paradise? Can you easily stay fit by walking to a nearby grocery store to shop for food while simultaneously saving money on gas, parking, and repairs? Plug your address into just launched WalkScore.com to find out! WalkScore.com calculates a home’s walkability “score” and encourages walking by identifying the closest schools, grocery stores, and other businesses. WalkScore.com is also a great way to find out if that new house you’ve been eyeing meets your needs as a walkable neighborhood. You can also find out the walkability scores for other houses, like your uncle’s house, the White House, any address that piques your interest.
WalkScore.com, a Google mashup that uses Google maps and business listings, was designed by Seattle residents Jesse Kocher, Matt Lerner, and Mike Mathieu. It works for any street address in the United States of America and Canada, assigning points based on the distance to local amenities, then averages the score. The site also lets you compare your score to that of famous locations and people such as Bill Gate’s house, Fenway Park, even Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt’s (pre-divorce) house.
“We wanted to create the Zillow of walkability so people could easily compare one house to another. Walking isn’t just good for your health, it’s good for the health of our neighborhoods and the planet,” says Matt Lerner, one of the site’s creators. The group was inspired by reports from the Sightline Institute, a Northwest think tank, on how city design and health are affected by each other, from obesity to air pollution to social capital.
The appeal of living in a walk or bike-friendly neighborhood is gaining momentum and not just with city professionals and hipster urbanites, but also with a growing number of families that want their kids to be able to walk to school and older adults that want to stay active by walking. “Instead of spending time in traffic, I can chat with my daughter and neighbors on the way to day care,” says Kristin Kolb, a mom who lives in a Seattle neighborhood that scores a 74 out of 100 on WalkScore.com, and who recently started walking her three-year old to day care instead of driving.
According to Sightline Institute, recent studies show that residents of compact areas—where homes are mixed with stores and services and the street network is designed for walking—are less likely to be obese; suffer substantially fewer chronic illnesses such as diabetes, lung disease, and hypertension; and have a lower risk of dying in a traffic accident because they drive less. The air they breathe may even be cleaner than their suburban counterparts’, especially if they spend less time in the “pollution tunnel” of busy highways.
Some users of WalkScore.com are comparing their neighborhood’s Walk Score as an emblem of local pride and of their lifestyle choices. Step by step, walking can help you stay well. And walkable neighborhoods mean enough people to support good mass transit, a reduction of gas use and green house gas emissions, and increased support of local businesses.
Read more on Walkability:
- Why Walk? The Benefits of Walkable Neighborhoods
- What’s Walkable?
- The Year of Living Car-lessly Experiment
About Sightline Institute
Sightline Institute (formerly Northwest Environment Watch) is a not-for-profit research and communication center–a think tank–based in Seattle and founded in 1993 by Alan Durning. Sightline’s mission is to bring about sustainability–a healthy, lasting prosperity grounded in place. It’s a slow-motion revolution, but it’s happening.