Pharyngula

Go for a walk

Here’s a cool tool: Walk Score. Type in an address, and it uses Google Maps to look up destinations like parks and stores and theaters that are in walking distance of the place, and gives you a score out of 100 on walkability. A place like Manhattan will give you high scores; one of those desolate suburbs where you have to drive to get anywhere (like my old address in Pennsylvania) will give you lousy low scores.

Morris is middling: I get a 52.

i-562a735ae73159b1067703f5cd11d6b9-walkscore.jpg

There’s funny stuff in the Google data base, though. It places a Donnelly grocery store a few blocks from my house and says it’s 24 miles away; there are also a whole lot of appropriate businesses that simply aren’t listed.

(via Mercury Rising)

Comments

  1. #1 Charley
    July 29, 2007

    Mine is also 52. Interesting concept, but odd choice of local destinations. I only frequent 1 or 2 of the 13 listed. #4 is a hookah lounge.

  2. #2 Rien
    July 29, 2007

    Dang, you got a lower score than I did in Tucson. Morris must really suck…?

  3. #3 Rien
    July 29, 2007

    On the other hand, my other home in Berkeley got a 94, which I can agree to.

  4. #4 ChrisD
    July 29, 2007

    My old stomping (romping?) ground received a 78. Va Beach, Va. But isn’t that where Robertson calls “home”? Subtract some points for that tidbit.

  5. #5 wildcardjack
    July 29, 2007

    Funny, it lists the Mormon’s next door as the nearest library. Comes up as “Family History Library”.

    They don’t include churches in the list which I think is reasonable. I’ve never seen Christians walking to church…

    It gave my place in Tyler, Tx a score of 29 which is about twice as high as it deserves. The system knows nothing of the lack of side walks and appears to draw straight lines.

  6. #6 Evolving Squid
    July 29, 2007

    My neighbourhood scores 15. Ouch.

    That’s about what I’d guess… despite living in the urban area, this neighbourhood was built at a time when the standard was to build a maze of streets that go nowhere with a strip mall and a park a short drive away, ensuring that nobody can walk anywhere.

  7. #7 phat
    July 29, 2007

    They are missing dozens of things that are nearby my house in Lincoln, NE.

    phat

  8. #8 Heather
    July 29, 2007

    I win!!! I win!!! Or maybe I lose? My walk score was ZERO. There really is nothing here worth walking to. A grocery store about 2.4 miles away, and a Walgreen’s across the street from it.

    Of course, this is the Phoenix area where nobody actually walks anywhere. So it really doesn’t matter how many great things there are within walking distance, everyone is going to drive anyway.

  9. #9 Jazmin
    July 29, 2007

    Hmm, I scored a 0, maybe because Google has no idea where I am. Houghton, MI is a small town but it’s bigger than Morris and we do have Michigan Tech. Kinda scary though, it feels like I just walked into the Twilight Zone.

  10. #10 Desert Donkey
    July 29, 2007

    38 for my house on the Northwest side of Eugene, but 94 for my office in downtown Eugene.

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    July 29, 2007

    We used to live on the west side of Eugene, so I know what you mean. Downtown Eugene is a lovely place, though.

  12. #12 Phoenix Woman
    July 29, 2007

    Of course, if they did it as a Bike Score, you could increase the area covered dramatically. Most people would have no problems biking ten to twenty miles a day, once they got started.

  13. #13 natural cynic
    July 29, 2007

    It must be on an as the crow flies measurement. I put in where I used to live in Moraga CA and it gave one of the nearest grocery stores in Oakland – less than 3.5 miles away. One would have to climb 2 500 ft. ridges, cross about 5 barbed wire fences and 5 gullies full of poison oak to do that. Following the closest roads would take more than 10 miles.

  14. #14 RBH
    July 29, 2007

    Not such a hot tool, I think. My village gets a 15 by virtue of Google missing a bookstore, two bars, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a deli, a library branch, and a grocery store, all within two blocks of the address I gave it.

  15. #15 Nic
    July 29, 2007

    52 in MN

    My old Pennsylvanian address got 72, which is surprising when I think about it.

  16. #16 hans
    July 29, 2007

    Feh. Everything’s in walking distance if you have enough time.

  17. #17 Nicole
    July 29, 2007

    My place in Boston got a 98. I can literally walk out my front door to get to a bar. ^__^

  18. #18 Carlie
    July 29, 2007

    It gave me an individual person’s name and home address as a restaurant. Think he’d mind if I invited myself over for dinner? Only .18 miles away.

  19. #19 MJ Memphis
    July 29, 2007

    I score a 63 here in Midtown Memphis. On the one hand, they dramatically understate the number of restaurants in walking distance (I have 12 restaurants within a 5 minute walk, easily 30+ within a 2 mile radius; they show 8 total). On the other hand, though, the rating doesn’t account for the fact that quite a few of the “walkable” locations to my south are in areas that a reasonable and prudent person would *not* walk through in the evening without a gun and/or a mean-looking Great Dane. So overall, I guess it’s a wash.

  20. #20 Eamon Knight
    July 29, 2007

    My home in a western suburb of Ottawa, Canada gets 48, but it seems to miss a bunch of local businesses and has something odd in it’s classifications. When did Dairy Queen get to be a bar? I would have picked O’Connor’s Irish Pub as the closest bar (next to the AMC 24 cinema) — having a bar within walking distance is good as it solves the can’t-drive-home problem).

  21. #21 Nomen Nescio
    July 29, 2007

    57 in upstate Michigan. it actually does list most of the worthwhile destinations, quite a few of them more than once. (the local civic center — definitely worthwhile — gets four or five hits, for no obvious reason.)

  22. #22 cbutterb
    July 29, 2007

    It told me to walk a mile down a busy, four-lane state highway with no sidewalks to get to Starbucks.

  23. #23 TomK
    July 29, 2007

    Did you confinscate some drugs from your college students and do the entire bag? First you post about wrapping some korans in bacon, then the very next post is your address. You have more balls then I do, my friend.

  24. #24 David Wilford
    July 29, 2007

    I get a 68 where I live in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Grocery store, library, YMCA, bank, post office, city hall, downtown all within six blocks walking distance. The clothing store data they had was incorrect, but since I don’t buy clothes at Wal-Mart it’s spot on for me. But they missed the bar with off-sale beer and liquor that’s within easy walking distance, so it’s definitely not optimized for Wisconsin… 😉

  25. #25 Will
    July 29, 2007

    My little place in Lincoln, Nebraska got a 51. Missing the school that I went to, and walked to and from every day, and was less than a 1/8 mile from my house.

    Wait a second…

    What?

    There is another Lincolnite on Pharyngula? Crazy.

  26. #26 Kurt
    July 29, 2007

    My old place in western Pennsylvania scored an 18. My new place in Center City Philadelphia scored a 98. No big surprise, and some of the destinations in the former location’s walk score are not really reachable given the lack of sidewalks, curvy roads, and general dangerousness of walking along the roads in that area.

    That downtown Philly scored so high is no surprise. Parks, museums, grocery (Trader Joe’s), and restaurants galore close by. Just need to avoid the crowds at sporting events – their reputation is well earned.

  27. #27 Dan
    July 29, 2007

    South Milwaukee got a 52 as well. But, I’ve got about 8 taverns within walking (or staggering) distance, and I even know of a couple more that weren’t on the map. So, that 52 could probably wind up looking a lot like a 90 after a block and a half stroll on a Friday night.

  28. #28 Richard, FCD
    July 29, 2007

    Worthless for me, I’m afraid.

    It ignores many local stores and restaurants, giving my neighborhood a score of 32.

    It also shows a store which does not, and has never existed, and a Papa John’s Pizza where there is none.

  29. #29 ukko
    July 29, 2007

    Woot! Here in the Minneapolis suburbs I got a 3!

  30. #30 Brian
    July 29, 2007

    I got 6, but the data must be crap. I live next to a park, that didn’t get included. There’s a river nearby, that has parkland on bothsides to allow for habitat, that didn’t even rate a mention. Crap I say…..

  31. #31 j.t.delaney
    July 30, 2007

    The thing is, it takes ZERO balls to desecrate a Koran in Morris, MN — hell, the local yokel mouthbreathers will probably want in on the fun, too. The scarce Muslim population in rural Minnesota (i.e. Sudanese and Somali refugees) are the only ones around who take this book seriously, and I assure you they aren’t exactly the most empowered people on Earth…

    If this is a free speech exercise, why not REALLY push some buttons? Why stop at desecrating a Koran and writing about it? What about burning a cross in front of your own house? Hey, why not wipe your ass with the American flag, burn it, and then post the whole event on YouTube? I’m sure you can probably do something scatologically creative with one of those black POW/MIA flags, too.

    “Vandalizing” your own property in your own house in the heart of Jesus-fearing, lilly-white Lutheranistan isn’t the same as what Stanislav Shmulevich did TWICE in lower Manhattan. I’m guessing there’s more to the story than what we’re hearing, and
    it might be good to look for some more info from another source before getting too jacked-up on righteous indignation.

  32. #32 j.t.delaney
    July 30, 2007

    (sorry — wrong thread!)

  33. #33 Interrobang
    July 30, 2007

    48 here, which perplexes me greatly, as there’s a ton of stuff around here. It also classifies the oldest continually-used baseball park in North America as a “park,” which is wrong, and misses at least one, probably two schools and a university which is also within a half-hour’s walking distance of here. Compared with the map PZ puts up, I have about 10x as much stuff visible, and a lower score? Huh?

  34. #34 Scarmentado
    July 30, 2007

    Scored 88. Living in Portland is cool.

  35. #35 JohnnieCanuck, FCD
    July 30, 2007

    Well, the 0 was pretty much valid. The funny part was listing our local equivalent of Greyhound Bus Lines under ‘Clothing & Music’.

  36. #36 blf
    July 30, 2007

    I got a 72, which given I live in the pedestrianised centre of an French city, is amazingly low. I walk everywhere in the centre, and either cycle or use the local public transport (which is quite good) for jaunts outside the centre. I don’t have, or need, a car.

    Looking over the list of places, there are numerous oddities, including, but not limited to:

    ? A restaurant which closed about a year ago (and, of course, numerous restaurants are missing);

    ? “No schools found” despite the hoards of children who pass by my flat each morning and the local large university and the language school immediately across the street and …;

    ? It did note my two favourite drinking holes, one of them twice, the second time as a library;

    ? Its idea of coffee shop is completely weird! I didn’t see a single caf listed (and this is France), but the list of “coffee shops” included a travel agency;

    and so on…

    Cute idea–and I’d like to see a bicycling equivalent–but the database needs a lot of work.

    I’d also like to know just what it is which is considered walkable, especially, perhaps, in terms of distance? And for that matter, I’d like to see the distances in terms of something useful, such as (kilo?-)metres rather than those silly mile things.

  37. #37 Cain
    July 30, 2007

    86, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC.

  38. #38 Cain
    July 30, 2007

    86, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC.

  39. #39 Porlock Junior
    July 30, 2007

    Nice to have my hilly, tree-filled little suburb score 72. Oddly enough, the crow-flies measurement they seem to use is the right one here, rather than working out a route with Google Maps; I doubt whether GM knows of all the public paths and stairways (I said it was hilly) that cut the walking distances, provided one has a strong enough heart.

    Pleasing also to be reminded that the local Starbucks is 3 times as far away as the Peet’s. The town actually resisted an attempt to get a Starbucks into the teensy downtown, and it’s exiled to the outskirts, such as they are.

  40. #40 Bob O'H
    July 30, 2007

    I got a 12. But I agree it’s crap: it thinks the nearest coffee place is over 2 miles away (the Hartwall Arena, for those who know Helsinki. And how many cafes are there closer to Munkkivuori than that?), and it isn’t aware that there’s a restaurant right next door to my flats. And it doesn’t think there are any bars within a 10 mile radius. Hmmm…

    It also doesn’t have a category for museums.

    Bob

  41. #41 demallien
    July 30, 2007

    I’ll second blf’s comments. I live in the 5th arrondisement of Paris, and they gave me a score of 40! What?!?! I have like 3 cinemas, 50 squillion restaurants, another 50 squillion shops, 4 schools, 3 parks, about 10 supermarkets, 2 libraries that I know of, 5 gyms, another 50 squillion pharmacies (the French are hypocondriacs) and well, EVERYTHING within 1km of my apartment. If it wasn’t for the fact that my partner has multiple sclerosis, I wouldn’t have a car, and even then we manage to get around OK by foot, even with a range limited to about 200m.

    Guess Google isn’t so flash on the physical location thing outside the US….

  42. #42 tceisele
    July 30, 2007

    Re Jazmin’s comment (#9), if it recognizes your address in Houghton MI the score is pretty good: my old apartment on Dodge Street got a whopping score of 92. This is pretty accurate, because I *did* live there without owning a car (and without really missing having one) for a number of years.

  43. #43 Nan
    July 30, 2007

    Cool. I just moved to this Atlanta neighborhood and hadn’t spotted the Dunkin Donuts .23 miles away. Physical fitness here I come.

  44. #44 eewolf
    July 30, 2007

    My home in St. Augustine scored 12, which is true with one exception. It didn’t count walking distance to the beach. And bikes count, too.

    But, it’s a tourist town and it would be nice if there was a local small grocer or a theater. I once lived in downtown Portland, OR and I walked everywhere. Cool city.

  45. #45 Eamon Knight
    July 30, 2007

    squillion
    Is this some new EU official number? What’s the exponent, and the SI prefix?
    😉

  46. #46 Chuck
    July 30, 2007

    63 for West Lafayette, IN. Kind of a surprise. The list of stuff nearby is decent, but it fails to account for the massive uphill hike it takes to get from anywhere away from my apartment on the river. How about a version of this that takes topography into account?

  47. #47 CL
    July 30, 2007

    65 for where I live right now in south Minneapolis (sort of near Lake Harriet), 100 for where I work in downtown Minneapolis, and an 83 for where I’m about to move to in Charlottesville, VA.

  48. #48 reason
    July 30, 2007

    Ha Ha Ha,
    I live in Germany. I have a school 50m from my home, but it doesn’t find any schools. And it thinks “Parks” means parking lots (but it seems to know only some of them). It thinks the Pharma company Fresenius AG is a hardware store. This tool doesn’t seem really international yet. But I was surprised it found my address so quickly with a US style address input screen (no country choice). I live in a VERY walkable place and it only gave me a 39.

  49. #49 Grimmstail
    July 30, 2007

    I didn’t need this tool to tell me that Florida sucks. But it’s good to have some of the suckiness quantified.

  50. #50 McG
    July 30, 2007

    Apparently there’s a movie theater 0.04 miles from my apartment. Who knew? It’s called Unity Health Systems.

  51. #51 MichaelS
    July 30, 2007

    This is pretty interesting. I think they were fairly accurate with their map (though they did consider the “Espresso Maintenence” a coffee shop). Of course, I’ve walked the 3.5 miles from my old apartment to the mall without problems, even though that’s probably not even considered in their score.

    Where I used to live in Texas it was some 25 miles to the nearest edge of town (then at least a couple more miles to get to anything inside town), so 3.5 miles to get to one of the farthest places I go doesn’t mean too much to me. The only thing that would really bother me about having no car (um, besides having no car) is the mile-plus walk back from the grocery store.

    And FYI, I’m in south-east Tucson, AZ with a 35; where did the > 52 Tucson score come from–north-west towards Marana perhaps, or somewhere close to the U of A?

  52. #52 Brownian
    July 30, 2007

    My neighbourhood in Redneckmonton Alberta scored 74, but that’s probably because it’s the closest thing to an artsy Bohemian quarter as you can get in this province.

    I had no idea I was within a half-mile of six different yoga studios, but I’m not surprised.

  53. #53 J-Dog
    July 30, 2007

    Something is wrong here! My suburban Chicago home gets a 52, and my daughter’s campus address also gets a 52!

    Hard to believe that miles of concrete, asphalt and red lights equates to trees, lakes and libraries.

  54. #54 todd.
    July 30, 2007

    My parents’ house gets a 5. My house gets a much higher grade than it ought to, somewhere in the 60s. The system doesn’t take into account the quality of the places you can walk to. So the 15 Starbucks in walking distance boost our score, even though I wouldn’t walk across the street for one.

  55. #55 Sonja
    July 30, 2007

    I got a 74 in my south Minneapolis neighborhood. I don’t think it takes into account that I’m only a couple blocks from a light rail station, which makes my neighborhood even more pedestrian-friendly. Just for fun I put in the addresses of some other locations in south Minneapolis which surprisingly did not do as well.

  56. #56 ctenotrish, FCD
    July 30, 2007

    92 for living just off Mass. Ave. in downtown Indianapolis. Parks, libraries, shops, food&drink, and more. I even walk to the grocery store (when not getting the heavy stuff).

  57. #57 QrazyQat
    July 30, 2007

    A bit problematic. We got a 78, but it doesn’t list more than maybe 1/5 of the restaurants in the area it covers, and it doesn’t list any of the 3 concert venues nearby… but then it lists under movie theaters at least one in Washington state, which is not so walkable unless you can run fast enough to stay afloat for 30 miles.

  58. #58 Ethan Romero
    July 30, 2007

    94/100 for the Kerrytown neighborhood in Ann Arbor, MI. I suppose that’s good, I haven’t owned a car in years.

  59. #59 Deepsix
    July 30, 2007

    0 out of 100. I’m surprised it was that high. They were off by about 10 miles for most of the locations.
    This would come to bad news to some. However, we love living in the middle of nowhere.

  60. #60 VWXYNot?
    July 30, 2007

    Hmmmm. It finds Canadian parks, coffee shops and bars (although most of the ones on my list actually serve gelato), but apparently the closest cinemas and schools are over the border in Washington. I don’t really fancy a nice evening stroll that includes fingerprinting, mug shot photos and lots of questioning.

  61. #61 jackd
    July 30, 2007

    Three (3) out of 100. To steal the phrase, “Why this is suburbia, nor am I out of it.”

  62. #62 Pygmy Loris
    July 30, 2007

    My small town address got me a 66 and there’s tons of stuff to walk to, but I think someone needs to have a smaller maximum distance. The site says the movie theatre in the next town is within walking distance 8 miles away down a busy four lane highway. There’s no way I’m walking two hours one way to see a movie. I’ll bike the eight miles, but probably not in the heat we’re having now.

  63. #63 Pygmy Loris
    July 30, 2007

    Oooh! I didn’t expand all the lists: I could walk 14 miles for some coffee! I’d need a whole pot to go just to make the walk back without falling asleep!

  64. #64 LC
    July 30, 2007

    Got a surprisingly low 69 here in Berkeley – though I’m a 15-20 min. walk away from dozens of restaurants (including Chez Panisse – which isn’t even mentioned), stores of all kinds, etc.

    The main problem does seem to be the Google database (i.e., lots of restaurants & stores not listed).

    A more complex issue may be how to identify and “rate” the value of having certain kinds of stores/services easily reachable (such as postal services, copy centers, banks etc.)

    OTOH, I think this is a great idea. I’ve never owned a car and whenever I’ve moved, “walkability” and public transit have always been very important. A tool such as this, if more accurate, would have been an invaluable aid.

  65. #65 natasha
    July 30, 2007

    I’m in the process of moving together with my adult children and their spouses from my zero in exurbia to a small organic farm with a 3! The distances did seem to be as the crow flies, however. Commuting for the kids will go from 25 and 50 miles to less than 5 miles. It was a big consideration in the choice for our “commune’s” location.

  66. #66 Kesh
    July 30, 2007

    I live in eastern Kentucky.

    I got a 9.

  67. #67 Oneiros Dreaming
    July 30, 2007

    92 for living just off Mass. Ave. in downtown Indianapolis. Parks, libraries, shops, food&drink, and more. I even walk to the grocery store (when not getting the heavy stuff).

    That’s just wrong. No way anywhere in Indy should get a higher score than lower Queen Anne in Seattle (82). I hope I live in a walkable area. My car battery actually died because it’s been so long since I touched it.

    Also, it lists 8 coffee shops within walking distance. I think I can see more than that from my apartment window. There’s gotta be like, hundreds of coffee shops I can walk to.

  68. #68 s9
    July 30, 2007

    Don’t feel too bad. I live in San Francisco, and my score was 55. Of course, if I lived just five blocks north of where I am now, the score would by 75.

  69. #69 Heather Kuhn
    July 30, 2007

    I scored an 88.
    I wonder if the lack of a category for museums is why the Mummers Museum is listed as a library.

    It missed at least one high school in walking distance, a pile of Asian eateries, one Asian supermarket and most of South Street. How do you miss most of South Street? It’s one of Philly’s major shopping districts. Sure there’s stores that don’t fit any of the categories available, but it missed two supermarkets, at least one bookstore and a bunch of clothing stores. Also, it listed a strip joint near the Delaware River as a bookstore, and missed anything east of Columbus Blvd (locally known as Delaware Avenue despite the name having been changed at least 12 years ago.) The strip joint is just west of Columbus Blvd.

    Amusing aside: the map has the thoroughfare of two names listed as Delaware Ave. I guess a South Philadelphian drew up the map.

  70. #70 Keith Douglas
    August 1, 2007

    50 here in my new place in Ottawa, but 74 from a place I had in Pittsburgh, 55 from the place I had in Montreal, 73 from where I was in Vancouver.

    I suspect some of the variation between neighbours might be due to the difference in people’s entering things into it, no? Doesn’t Google Maps rely on submissions to do this sort of stuff?

    Eamon Knight: Isn’t Dairy Queen a dairy bar? 😉

  71. #71 Darina
    December 13, 2007

    I believe that walk score is cool, but nowadays more and more people prefer to drive cars. Homes are often located in an area where some establishments are easier to get to by car than on foot. I’ve recently found a type of service on http://drivescore.fizber.com which is called Drive Score. It shows a map of what establishments are in your neighborhood and calculates a Drive Score based on the number of places within a convenient driving distance. It doesn’t mean that drive score is better than walk score – they are equal and both necessary in the modern world!

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