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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-19-08, 02:02 PM   #1
sean000
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What is your neighborhood's Walk/Bike Score?

Something that goes hand-in-hand with living car-free or car-light is reducing the size of your personal day-to-day geographical world. I would define this as the geographical size of the area that you travel on a daily basis to go between home, work, the grocery store, and any other place you visit multiple times a week.

When my wife and I were looking for a new city to move to, we looked for a place that would allow us to keep our personal daily world small. Then we looked for neighborhoods that would put us as close as possible to our basic daily needs like work, grocery store, parks to enjoy, restaurants, etc. We also looked carefully at the bicycle routes available. Of course we started by looking at places and neighborhoods that we really wanted to live in, but then we narrowed the field further by doing our own walk/bike score. This was a process we were kind of already thinking through on our own when we discovered the Walkscore website. This website is walking oriented, but what's good for walking is usually good for biking as well: http://www.walkscore.com

Our new home in Bellingham, WA gets a 71% for walkability... I think that's lower than it should be, but maybe it has something to do with the hills? For biking our house is definitely a 90% or higher. I would give it a 100%, but you have to climb a monster hill... which at least keeps me in shape!

We are less than a half mile from just about anything we need (the historic shopping district of Fairhaven is just down the hill), and work for both of us is less than 4 miles away. The bike path that is a quarter-mile from our house can take us three miles to downtown in one direction (along the Bay), and about 7 miles out to a state park with a beach in the other direction. Bellingham also has plenty of bike lanes.

There is also a Drive Score tool at http://drivescore.fizber.com/ but this uses things like proximity to big box stores and malls (places I can do without), but I didn't find any tools that specifically score bike-friendliness. It would be more difficult to assess since these tools basically rely on proximity to businesses. For a real bike score you would need to factor in variables like traffic, available bike lanes, bicycle paths, etc.

Now I know there are people who live car-free even though they have to bike 20 miles or more to get to work and other businesses, but there sure is something nice about having everything you need within 5 miles or less. When we lived in Washington, DC our world was even smaller... but a lot more hectic with horrible air quality.There are some things we miss about living in DC, but overall we are very happy with our move... even if we did go from car-free in DC to car-light in Bellingham (it's nice to have a vehicle for driving to the mountains, and to the hardware store for those larger and heavier items).

Sean

PS:
And for anyone reading it... please don't take this post as saying that urban (or semi-urban) living is a better lifestyle than rural or suburban living. From experience I know many suburbs are poorly designed for walking and/or biking; but others are much better. And before my wife and I decided that we wanted to live right between the historic district and the downtown business district, we thought long and hard about moving to a more rural area. We just knew we'd hate the commute to our jobs downtown(even if we could do it by bicycle sometimes) and decided to save the rural life for a time when we figure out what kind of business we can do from home (if that ever happens). If we could figure that out, we might just move to one of the islands! There seem to be a lot of people in our area (mostly farmers, artists, writers, independent contractors and telecommuters) who live in rural areas but still manage a car-light lifestyle since they don't have to head into town very often... and might do that by bicycle or boat.

Simple and flawed as it is, the walkscore is an interesting tool for getting people to think more about where they live in relation to the places they need to be on a regular basis; and how that might affect their level of car-dependency and their quality of life. Everyone has their own priorities in the end, and I'm glad my wife and I agree on most of them. Unfortunately, high walk scores often mean high prices as well

Last edited by sean000; 02-19-08 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 02-19-08, 02:20 PM   #2
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32/100 but that seems way too high. Many of those close locations are on the other side of an 8 lane high-speed boulevard with no crosswalks. Also the bookstore, movie theater and park it lists are not actually correct. Those places are there but they aren't really a bookstore and a movie theater, and the park is just a historic house.

Almost nobody who lives in this neighborhood walks anywhere except myself and the people who live right across from 7-11. Kids don't even walk to the bus stop, their parents drive them there. I'm not staying here much longer.

That said, i prefer rural living and besides in town most rural places wouldn't score well at all.
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Old 02-19-08, 02:51 PM   #3
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walkscore just looks at sheer distances, it can't assess barriers, like freeways, but it's not a bad start
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Old 02-19-08, 02:58 PM   #4
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My area got a pretty decent 75%. It would be better if I lived in the city, not the suburbs, which got a cool 94% rating.
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Old 02-19-08, 03:39 PM   #5
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My area got a pretty decent 75%. It would be better if I lived in the city, not the suburbs, which got a cool 94% rating.
Hey 75% is really good for the suburbs... and a higher score than our house gets even though it's in an urban neighborhood. Yeah... as Kf5nd pointed out, walkscore and drivescore just look at distance and don't take into consideration many other important factors... but it is a useful place to start if you are shopping for real estate online and you aren't familiar enough with the area to know what is close by. It's a given that city neigbhorhoods are generally going to score higher than suburban and rural neighborhoods... but this tool might help people find a suburban or rural home that is closer to grocery stores, parks, and restaurants than most of the other suburban and rural homes. There are also surprising differences within cities, and for walking I suppose even a half mile makes a big difference. Just two blocks down the hill from us the scores jump up.

And for anyone reading it... please don't take my original post as saying that urban (or semi-urban) living is a better lifestyle than rural or suburban living. From experience I know many suburbs are poorly designed for walking and/or biking; but others are much better. And before my wife and I decided that we wanted to live right between the historic district and the downtown business district, we thought long and hard about moving to a more rural area. We just knew we'd hate the commute to our jobs downtown(even if we could do it by bicycle sometimes) and decided to save the rural life for a time when we figure out what kind of business we can do from home (if that ever happens). If we could figure that out, we might just move to one of the islands! There seem to be a lot of people in our area (mostly farmers, artists, writers, independent contractors and telecommuters) who live in rural areas but still manage a car-light lifestyle since they don't have to head into town very often... and might do that by bicycle or boat.

Simple and flawed as it is, the walkscore is an interesting tool for getting people to think more about where they live in relation to the places they need to be on a regular basis; and how that might affect their level of car-dependency and their quality of life. Everyone has their own priorities in the end, and I'm glad my wife and I agree on most of them. Unfortunately, high walk scores often mean high prices as well


Sean

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Old 02-19-08, 04:33 PM   #6
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40 on walkability, not enough places nearby. While driving score was 65 ... hard to say the accuracy seems it would depend on the distance willing to cover.
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Old 02-19-08, 05:29 PM   #7
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74 for me in NOLA. It is pretty nice, very compact city.
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Old 02-19-08, 06:03 PM   #8
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seemed to be near accurate ... though even better if they could set up one specifically for biking.
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Old 02-19-08, 06:42 PM   #9
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seemed to be near accurate ... though even better if they could set up one specifically for biking.
Mine is never accurate. We had a nice long thread on this a while back...no change on mine, the stuff is still in the wrong place. My country home has a score of 2...city "apartment" has a 66-68...the program doesn't recognize the actual address. I think the "city" score is way too low. The whole friggin town is only 3 by 4 miles or so. Totally walkable, more cycleable and laid out on a grid so you can parallel the major roads on side streets.

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Old 02-19-08, 06:54 PM   #10
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just take them as guidelines its simpler
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Old 02-19-08, 08:03 PM   #11
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Both of the guides seem to have some details missing. Just about everything on that list, except for a cinema, is within two kilometres of my home. But it showed the nearest grocery store as something like 13 kilometres away and the nearest fitness centre around the same distance. But I know there are those facilities less than a kilometre from my door.
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Old 02-20-08, 10:11 AM   #12
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Thank you. That's a cool little thing. My score is 48. I live in a neighborhood with sidewalks, so walking is easy, but there's nothing to walk TO. Almost everything I would need to go to is half a mile to a mile away. I live half a block from a creek with parkland along the bank, but that is not really a public space where one would want to just hang out, unless it is hanging out with the dog. My walk score from the dog's point of view probably is about 98.
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Old 02-20-08, 01:51 PM   #13
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My walk score from the dog's point of view probably is about 98.
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Old 02-20-08, 03:05 PM   #14
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Grand Rapids, MI got a 78. Although two of the theatres listed within walking distance are "adult" theatres. I think that deserves a -10 from the score.
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Old 02-20-08, 03:55 PM   #15
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How did I get a 95%? I live in center city Philadelphia. I'd like to know what it takes to get 100%.
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Old 02-20-08, 06:17 PM   #16
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Where I live in Santa Cruz, CA got 92. I find it amusing that it counted a local ice cream parlor (Marianne's) as a "Grocery Store", and counted the same Longs Drugs twice.

[Edit]: It seems that my workplace downtown (0.65 miles from my home) scores a sweet 97!
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Old 02-20-08, 07:56 PM   #17
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I tried plugging in the street address for a local shopping center and it gave me a 88 and there is everything you need in that single strip mall...except an LBS but it is only a half mile away

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Old 02-21-08, 04:01 PM   #18
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One thing it points out is how much a bicycle adds to the mix. My house's walk score is only 55, but I would put the bike score at 90. Combined with a good bus system and bus stops in front of my house, my location is close to 100 on a "carfree score."
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Old 02-21-08, 08:09 PM   #19
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Last time I tried this my location got a 3, but this time it got a 5. Woohoo! The driving score was 70, which is optimistic. Driving should be 90+ here, since everything is so car-centric, but when you consider that traffic is so bad, it makes driving terrible here, IMO. That's why I don't do it.
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Old 02-21-08, 08:37 PM   #20
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Last time I tried this my location got a 3, but this time it got a 5. Woohoo! The driving score was 70, which is optimistic. Driving should be 90+ here, since everything is so car-centric, but when you consider that traffic is so bad, it makes driving terrible here, IMO. That's why I don't do it.
Last time my address scored a 0, this time a 3. They are listing things that don't exist and the numbers are wrong. For instance Berry College is listed as the closest coffee shop at 8.7 miles. Berry College is about 75 miles away from me. The hardware store is listed at less than a mile from my house. It's really 14 miles away and down a four lane highway. Wilkes county law library is listed as the closest library. I live in Walton county.

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Old 02-22-08, 08:58 AM   #21
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One noted omission on this is that it doesn't list transit facilities; where I live now gets a 55; but I have a choice of two rail lines, one two blocks from my house, and another 1/2 mile away, plus a bus on the other corner. Where my parents live (70's sprawling street-setup, with only one bus 1/2 mile away) gets a 69.
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Old 02-22-08, 11:00 AM   #22
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looks like i got about 98 %. somerville, ma.
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Old 02-22-08, 07:57 PM   #23
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I got a 92. I love Vashon, Island, Wa. It is the greatest place to live in the world.
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Old 02-22-08, 07:57 PM   #24
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Our new home in Bellingham, WA gets a 71% for walkability... I think that's lower than it should be, but maybe it has something to do with the hills? For biking our house is definitely a 90% or higher. I would give it a 100%, but you have to climb a monster hill... which at least keeps me in shape!
Welcome to Bellingham. Our house gets a walkscore of 66 and I consider it a very prime walkable location (Lettered Streets neighborhood). I can easily walk to the bank, post office, drug store, grocery, auto repair and just about anything else I need (including the mall I rarely visit). The business choices the walkscore.com website uses seem odd to me. Most aren't places I go, i.e. is Cosmic Comics really a "bookstore"? My kids walked to elementary, middle and high school. We chose our home to be within bike commuting distance of my day job when we moved here. I no longer have a day job, being self-employed working from home, but our convenient location remains a real positive. I don't understand people who want to live more than about 3 miles from their place of work. Anything more and you get too sweaty on the way to work.

My business driving in 2007 was almost 17000 miles, but we only put 2300 miles on the personal car.
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Old 02-23-08, 05:09 AM   #25
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I got a NINE.
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