DAY 24: Know the score on walking in Houston

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.

The Heights is one of Houston’s most walkable neighborhoods.

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.

If food doesn’t get your heart pumping, you could always host a zombie walk.

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

 

4 comments

  1. Enjoying your blog very much! The hubs and I rode the bus to the Super Bowl Live activities this weekend and I found it to be a more pleasant option over the light rail. I’m trying to ride my bike to work several days a week and enjoy the scenery along the Columbia Tap Rails to Trails route. How often to you get to hear roosters crow and see horses graze while driving in your car? The biggest challenge is a lack of shower facilities at work – so a change of clothes and a fan are a must! Keep the stories coming!

    1. Thanks, Cathy. Good for you! Yes, I saw those same horses this weekend. Hope some of the New Englanders see them this week. When I was bike commuting, baby wipes were my best friend.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration! I rode the bus home, got my shingles vaccine, and ride my bike to check the mail. Giving the truck a rest (lower gas bill) will help pay for all the parts the truck needs! Keep it up!

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