How walkable is your community?
Learn more about your neighbourhood with Walk Score.
Have you ever tried walking in a new city or neighbourhood only to find that the schools, stores, or community services are miles away, or that no effort has been made to carve an area out for pedestrians and cyclists? Don't you wish there had been some way to find out about these features beforehand?
Fortunately, there are many groups seeking to test these factors, which are collectively referred to as "Walkability."
Walkability is the determination of how optimal an area is for foot-based travel based on a variety of factors. There are several initiatives designed specifically to grade walkability, but few compare in magnitude to Walk Score, which keeps a database on the walkability of cities, neighbourhoods, and major pathways throughout the entire world, with a prevalent focus on America, Canada, and Australia.
To determine how walkable a city or neighbourhood is, points are given in various categories, including whether the living area has some centre, such as a main street or a public space. Points are also given for population size, for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently. The score also looks into the affordability of housing and local business and at the number of parks and public spaces that are easily reachable.
It also considers whether the city is adapted for pedestrians, such as closeness between buildings and streets, and where parking lots are located. It looks into how close schools and workplaces are to housing. Finally it examines whether streets are "complete," or designed adequately for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
So, how do the cities in Ontario measure up on Walk Score's 0 to 100 scales?
First, let's check Ottawa itself. Ottawa's walkability is determined less than exceptional at 54 overall, making it the fifth most walkable large city in the province, as well as a transit score of 49. The two most walkable neighbourhoods in Ottawa are Somerset at 89 and Rideau-Vanier at 81, while the two least walkable were West Carleton-March at 8 and Osgoode at 11.
If Ottawa is only number five, how did the other cities in Ontario shape up? Toronto came in first place at 71, followed closely by Montreal at 70, then Smiths Falls and Perth, both at 65. Most of the other cities in Ontario had a walkability score between 50 and 30, with a few in the twenties.
But how can the nation's capital improve its walkability? The most recurring theme in the most walkable cities was a large presence of clearly defined walking and bike lanes and bike sharing programs, both of which have already begun to improve, and easy access to reliable public transit.
Walk Score further compiles this information for use by residents and prospective renters. One can look up an address to see it evaluated based on the features and utilities of the surrounding area.
Why Walk Score? Their site says "drive less and live more"...
And there's strong evidence to back them up on the goodness of walking. A 2014 study by McGill University in Montreal found that, of the 3,400 people surveyed, 85 per cent identified walking as the most satisfying method of transportation. Driving, on the other hand, was found to be significantly lower, at 77 per cent.
Making walking easier throughout Ottawa is a solid way of improving the happiness of everyone living within the city.
Nathan Mulcahy writes on environmental issues.