I admit it. Until a few months ago, I didn’t know that our house—and Houston—were scored for walkability.
I can hear the millennials snickering. Sorry, I’m old. And I haven’t shopped for a house in decades.
If you’re similarly afflicted, save yourself the embarrassment. Click here, type in your address and city/state and learn your abode’s official Walk Score. At least you’ll be prepared if a snooty Inner Looper brags about her “82.” Redfin ranks Houston’s inside-the-loop Midtown and Neartown/Montrose neighborhoods among the 10 most walkable in the state.
Our neighborhood ranks as “very walkable.” The Heights was developed long before cars were common. That heritage is one thing that makes it a great place for our car-free experiment. I doubt we’d even consider going carless if we lived in a far-out suburb.
I’d walk a mile for a breakfast taco
Walkability is more than sidewalks and safe neighborhood streets. It’s also about having places close by to walk to. That means schools, libraries, parks, shopping and health care, for example. But let’s be honest. It’s really about food.
Stephanie and I moved to the Heights in 1976. While it’s now a foodie’s paradise, it was the exact opposite then. Triple A Restaurant was where we went for fine dining.
For me, Hurricane Katrina was the walkability tipping point in our neighborhood. I spent my formative food years in the Crescent City, and Houston came up short in some important ways. Within a few years of the massive storm, one New Orleans evacuee had started a restaurant and another a snowball stand within 1.1 miles—an easy walk—of our house. Walking made things taste even better.
According to Walk Score, “the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood.” Sure, let’s go with that.
Houston improving as a walkable city
It’s no secret that cars dominate Houston transportation. Some neighborhoods almost require driving for even simple errands. Our overall city walk score suffers as a result. Houston’s walkability is about half that of New York, San Francisco and Boston.
Let’s close with some good news, though. Last year Houston improved its Walk Score by four points. That’s significant, and we’re ahead of arch rival Dallas.
Need an incentive to walk? Follow your gut instinct. Choose a favorite restaurant within a couple of miles. (An average walking speed is 3.1 miles per hour.) Can you get there safely by walking? Do you have friends crazy enough to walk and meet you there? The Houston weather forecast calls for mild temperatures this Super Bowl week.
I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Photo credit: ZOMBIE WALK 4 by aka Tman, licensed under CC 2.0