Monday, April 16, 2012

Charlotte trails nation in walkability has been running a wonderfully written series about pedestrians, but in the No. 3 installment, about the website, the article has a list of cities and neighborhoods deemed "most walkable" and "least walkable" according to the Walk Score formula. New York ranked most walkable. Charlotte wasn't least walkable that honor (?) went to Jacksonville, Fla. But the Queen City was the next-to-last.

I've written much about the need for more walkable neighborhoods and about more lights, crossings, sidewalks and just as important destinations within walking distance. And, as Tom Vanderbilt's article makes clear, part of Walk Score's value is that it bothers to quantify something that few other metrics do, and it coughs out an easily understood score, which makes comparisons easy. However,  it is not perfect.

Because of the flaws in the way it's done, the Walk Score also makes comparisons suspect. For instance, it deems the Cherry neighborhood the most walkable in Charlotte. Um, why?

 Although I feel affection and protective toward that small, African-American neighborhood snuggled next to, but predates, Myers Park, and much as I hope its proximity to uptown does not ensure a future of high-rises, and evocative though its bungalows are and its wonderful square, surrounded with a school, a church, stores and houses it is significantly less walkable than uptown (see photo above), or any of its neighborhoods. Yes, you can walk to Trader Joe's, but that isn't a full-service grocery. Is there a drug store in walkable distance? I suppose you can count the Target, but it's across some yucky high-capacity streets. Cherry is technically walkable, but not comfortably walkable. Uptown has better amenities for pedestrians, better access to jobs and better access to transit.

One commenter on Slate had this to say:

The Charlotte data is laughable.

Cherry is a neighborhood where you are quite likely to get yourself killed if you are silly enough to walk there. Also the locations labeled B, D, and A are in Dilworth. Location H is in Myers Park, and location I is on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College. Only location G could even possibly considered as being sort of kind of on the extreme southern border of Cherry, and businesses on Kings Drive I'm sure would never think of themselves as actually being "in" that blighted neighborhood.

Charlotte has some walkable neighborhoods, especially Fourth Ward and to a somewhat lesser extent the newly-gentrified First Ward, but seeing how horribly inaccurate the cited data is makes me wonder about the other cities in this slide show.

For the record, I question the assumption that you'd get killed walking through Cherry. It's  low-income, but that does not automatically equal Murder Central. But while Cherry is obviously a better place for pedestrians to get somewhere useful than, say, Windy Ridge, Raintree or Stonehaven, I would not rate it the city's most walkable neighborhood.

If you have nominations or thoughts, pop them into the comments section below. I moderate comments, so there could be a delay of a few minutes or longer before they appear.