The Benefits of a Walkable Neighborhood
When I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, I walked practically everywhere because my family did not have a car. The grocery store was a block away, and the beach was less than a mile south. Nearly everything we needed was within walking distance because Honolulu is a fairly densely populated city. Before my family moved to California, we heard from my aunt that not having a car in California is like not having legs because you have to drive almost everywhere. Unfortunately, this is certainly true in the exurbs of Southern California and many suburbs in the Bay Area. As a result, we now drive almost everywhere.
I think there are quite a few benefits to live in a highly walkable neighborhood. One obvious reason is that you can save quite a bit of money and time on transportation. When I visited my inlaws in Southern California last winter, I felt like we spent hours and hours inside of cars. Most of the trips were small errands like going to the grocery store or getting lunch, but they seemed to take a very long time. When I told an aunt that my commute to work each day is 9 miles each way she said to me, "That's not a commute! That's going to the grocery store!" Understandably, it does not make sense to walk when the nearest grocer is so far away, but the cost of driving so much really adds up especially when gas is topping $4.50 a gallon here in California.
Another great reason for living in a walkable neighborhood is that it encourages you to exercise. Walking is an exercise that burns a lot of fat calories, and doing it on a daily basis really increases your fitness. When you walk for things you need like groceries or food then it does not feel like mandatory exercise.
The problem with highly dense walkable neighborhoods is that the real estate could be very expensive. For example, New York is very walkable, but rent is extremely high. In Southern California, Los Angeles has countless suburbs and exurbs sprawled out that could be reached by hours of driving because people drove until they could afford something. However, with the rapidly rising transportation costs, it may not make sense to live so far from daily necessities anymore. Nevertheless, the expensive real estate in these highly walkable areas is a benefit to landlords who are able to retain their real estate value and high rents. So if you do consider purchasing real estate, it may be to your advantage to consider how walkable the neighborhood is.
Finally, a great tool to determine the walkability of your neighborhood is available at Walkscore . This site lets you input an address and shows you the closest stores and restaurants around you. Apparently my current address has a Walkscore of 65 out of 100, and there are restaurants and groceries less than a quarter mile away. My husband and I have walked to the grocery store a few times when we just needed small things, and we will do it more. Hopefully when we move we will go to a place that is more walking friendly so that we can use our cars as little as possible.
How about you? Are you able to walk everywhere? Do you enjoy it?
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