London: A Walkable City
London: A Walkable City

People love walkable neighborhoods; so much so that they pay a significant premium to live in one. Interestingly, however, there’s no correlation between living in a walkable neighborhood and actually walking more. That’s the result of a UW study that included Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.

One way to read these results is to say that we’re foolish to pay for walkable neighborhoods because we don’t use them. Another way to read it is that we’ve defined walkability too broadly:

Although many dozens of studies have tried to analyze why some people walk and others don’t, [Brian Saelens, from Seattle Childrens’ Resarch Institute] says the overwhelming fact is it’s hard to get Americans to walk anywhere near the recommended 30 minutes per day.

The only proven way, he says, is if they live in high-density, transit-rich neighborhoods. In those areas, walking is useful. They’re dense with apartments and shops, driving is a pain, and good transit service means people will walk to a bus-stop or train station. In Seattle, he says, parts of Capitol Hill and Queen Anne fit the bill.

Ravenna has a Walkscore of 77, which is decent, but Capitol Hill beats it comfortably with a 91.  A Saturday afternoon stroll is, I would imagine, rather pleasant in Ravenna, but walking everywhere to run errands is probably intensely time-consuming.  Sidewalks and tree-lined streets are nice amenities (as people who live in Sidewalk-less Seattle can no doubt attest), but in and of themselves they’re not enough to encourage more walking.  True walkability – where you walk because it’s faster than any other form of transportation – is actually quite rare in Seattle (and most of America).

69 Replies to “If We Build Sidewalks, Will They Walk?”

    1. The majority would still buy in the city, though. The “small detached house” in the survey is a city house, according to the article. So adding up the luxury apartment, condo, and small house folks, you get 42% who would buy in the city as opposed to 34% in the suburbs. The poll wasn’t just “house vs. condo” even if they are trying to spin it that way.

  1. <blockquote cite="True walkability – where you walk because it’s faster than any other form of transportation – is actually quite rare in Seattle (and most of America)."

    My thesis tackled an element of this point: essentially, at which point does walking become faster than taking the bus? The pivot point was at 0.9 miles. That is, if you factor in the time it takes to walk to a bus stop, wait, in-motion time, and walking to your final destination it takes essentially the same time to walk that same distance (assumes 3 mph pace).

    Further out, at 1.7 and 2.3 miles, taking the bus is 8.5 and nearly 16 minutes faster, respectively, than walking that same distance.

    Lots of considerations but if you boost walking speed to a relatively modest 3.5 mph, walking the 1.7 mile distance is only 4 minutes slower than taking the bus. Factor in the public and personal health benefit and reliability gained by walking, there is a compelling case to be made that walking intermediate distances can be competitivie with taking the bus.

    <a href="https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace/handle/1773/21846&quot; title="Stretching the limits of walkability: comparing walk and bus trips in urban Seattle neighborhoods"

    1. I’m sorry, John, but you and many others in this thread have utterly missed the point of Frank’s post and of the study on which it is based. What is this new obsession amongst a contingent of STB-ers with extolling bad transit as enabling a healthy lifestyle?

      As the study clearly reveals, this is a lie. When walking is not useful — and most do not consider walks of over a mile through indistinct, amenity-less areas useful — people will simply revert to the habit of driving. This is, in fact, the rational choice to make, no matter how much you may love to walk recreationally when time is of no consequence.

      Meanwhile, I hope you haven’t submitted that thesis yet. Not only is your premise flawed — if transit is as slow as walking, the choice for most adults is neither — but your attempt to claim a 3.5-mph walking speed as “relatively modest” is fraudulent.

      The average default human walking speed is 3.1 mph, and the bell curve flanking that measurement is steep. This represents pace without obstruction, so I’d your journey involves crossing any busy streets that frustrate jaywalking, you can expect to drop below 3.0 mph. I’m the fastest default walker I know, and am constantly being reminded by companions to slow down; I have measured my unobstructed speed at 3.2-3.3 mph. Anyone who claims a routine 3.5 mph or faster is lying. The human body developed an entirely separate locomotive process for faster conveyance: it’s called “running”, but it requires a very different type of exertion.

      The real problem, to which Frank alludes, is that the term “walkable” has come to lack specificity. Ravenna has sidewalks, streets mostly connect through, and it isn’t isolated by an impenetrable auto conduit. And so we declare it “walkable”. But it isn’t remotely walkable in the sense of have stuff to which to readily walk. Not even a real transit stop. And so walking fails to become any sort of default.

      1. I don’t wish to get entangled in a neverending back-and-forth but my study assumed a 3 mph pace , as stated at the end of the first paragraph. All trial runs were conducted at this pace. I used 3.5 later on simply to illustrate (no trial runs were conducted at this speed) what happens when pace is increased.

        The term walkable is a loaded term. I do not dispute this. As you note, there are many elements that make for high “walkability.” But there seems to be an undercurrent that everyone that chooses to walk or use transit has access to a vehicle. There are many carless people in this city so saying that “walking fails to become any sort of default” is not true, even in so-so or ill-labeled neighborhoods such as Ravenna. Sure, there may not be attractive amenties in Ravenna but further away, such as in the U-District, there are. My whole point is: for these farther out distances that are still within a 20-30 minute walk, is there value in forgoing a bus trip and making that trip on foot if those are the only two modes available to that person?

      2. I don’t precisely disagree with anything you just wrote (except for your use of 3.5 mph as an input for the purposes of real-world illustration). Perhaps I was unfairly lumping you in with those who claim lousy transit-supported mobility as a boon to public health, in violation of all evidence that correlates healthy transit with healthy people and unhealthy transit with people driving everywhere — even in Seattle. There are a few gross offenders on this point in the thread below.

        So while I agree that your facts are correct — there exist carless people living in Ravenna and Maple Leaf (though not many, and certainly not enough to claim walking as “default” in those areas); at certain distances, walking will beat waiting for slow and infrequent transit, regardless of walk quality or density of neighborhood amenities — I wonder what larger point your paper wishes to make, what your announced conclusions hope to achieve.

        You can’t simply expect 30-minute walks for simple errands or to access real transit to become a norm. If you want more than a scant few to get out of their cars, you have to fix the underlying spatial and/or transit-service errors that render your alternatives so bleak. You might, for example, have used your study to advocate for a small-yet-key North U-District Link station, which would have completely changed the modal algorithm for people who will never walk to (and might rarely even use) the line as it is being built.

        Simply saying “it’s faster to walk certain distances” may be accurate, but in the absence of a transformative prescription, such a conclusion is not particularly helpful to anyone!

  2. The study suggests that recreational walking will occur no matter how bad the neighborhood is. In other words, if the neighborhood lacks sidewalks, is too busy, or is otherwise unpleasant, then people will drive somewhere to walk. It is quite possible that Ravenna has the same rate of walkers as Northgate, its just that the Northgate walkers drive to Ravenna (or Greenlake).

    It’s a different story with destination walking. Like other transportation issues, the pleasantness of the experience plays a part, but not a big part of the decision. For example, if they built a high speed underground rail system to Bremerton, how many people would take it versus the ferry? What if it saved 5 minutes? or 15? or ran way more often? It is hard to say, but it is pretty easy to guess that the quality of the ride does play a part in one’s transportation choice, just not a huge one.

    I think it is true for the Northgate neighborhood. Northgate has high “walkability” scores (because of all the amenities nearby). It also has good public transportation (which is about to get great) so there are probably plenty of people who are willing to live without a car (which greatly increases the chance of walking). But at the same time, walking around there is largely unpleasant. Many of the streets lack sidewalks. It probably doesn’t matter if you have an apartment on a busy street, but a couple blocks away it does. This leads people to drive a half mile to the gym instead of walking (even on a nice day). It leads people to driving when the terrain is very good for biking (fairly flat) because the roads are designed for cars and cars only. All of this leads to more driving.

    It also leads to more driving focused housing. Just as light rail can build density (as Conlin recently put it: two sides of the same coin) so too can good sidewalks.

    Better yet are good bridges. A good bridge can make walking both practical and enjoyable. For example, assume you have an apartment on 5th Avenue and NE 100th (close to Northgate) and you need to get to NSCC. How do you get there? You can bike an unpleasant route (maneuvering through busy streets and up a hill with cars passing you), walk about a mile or so around the college (either by going up the hill or next to a busy road). Neither of those options are pleasant or convenient. You could walk to the transit center and wait for a bus (which isn’t much faster nor more pleasant) or you could drive. My guess is that folks drive. On the other hand, once the bridge over I-5 is built, the obvious answer is to walk (faster than any alternative and reasonably pleasant). Of course it isn’t just students on either side, but clinics, offices, etc. Building bridges is a great investment, and one that compliments public transportation systems really well.

    1. Ross,

      Let’s not get too carried away with “once the bridge across I-5 is built” – there is not yet sufficient funding to actually build the bridge. We have a commitment from Sound Transit for some funding but not enough, and Seattle has not yet put in the remaining amount required.

  3. Sidewalks and tree-lined streets are nice amenities (as people who live in Sidewalk-less Seattle can no doubt attest)

    Disagree.

    One thing that comes up a lot at the Northgate Station meetings is that the residents that live east of the station (Maple Leaf) want sidewalks to get to the station. Sidewalks will NOT make it easier to walk to the station. It’s hilly terrain, and the fact that your feet touch concrete instead of asphalt makes no difference.

    Although if they were non-ADA compliant stairs, that actually would make it easier (provided they proportion the rise and tread properly).

    1. It does a make a difference. I walk up hills all the time. I walk on streets with sidewalks and streets without them. So does my wife. She hated walking our neighborhood to catch the bus. She ended up driving more and more so that she didn’t have to worry about being run over (because our neighborhood lacks sidewalks). Of course, like all drivers, once you are in the car, you might as well drive to your destination, rather than the park and ride (or in our case, a street close to the bus).

    2. I might also add that there is plenty of terrain east of the Northgate station that lacks sidewalks and is fairly flat (Victory Heights, Pinehurst, etc.). Basically the area directly east and north of Northgate. Despite the fact that it is flat, it is rather hard to bike through as well. Adding sidewalks and bike improvements would help that neighborhood immensely. They would be much better than a park and ride, since a park and ride will suffer from the congestion which is a result of the pinch point traffic patterns.

      1. 2 miles to the north and 2 to the east. You may as well lump Kirkland in to your list of places east of Northgate Station.

      2. @Tim — You need a better map. Victory Heights is directly east. Pinehurst is directly Northeast. Both are closer to Northgate than Maple Leaf. My recommendation for a map is this one: http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php. Zoom in using t4- Topo High. That allows you to see the city along with the topo lines.

        But we are splitting hairs and fighting over what designation to use for a neighborhood. Call it all “Greater Northgate”. Basically everything close to Northgate, east of I-5. Most of that is flat and most of that lacks sidewalks. It is only the area to the southeast (towards what I would call Maple Leaf) that is hilly.

      3. Victory Heights’ eastern bound is 15th. How you think that’s closer than Maple Leaf, which borders Northgate, is beyond me.

        You must not live in Northeast Seattle. There are very few areas that aren’t hilly an any respect.

      4. I live in Pinehurst. It is on the map. Even the Google Street Map has it. Google puts Pinehurst on 8th Ave NE. The USGS map centers it further east. The Pinehurst Playground (which is visible on the Google Street Map) are both west of 15th Ave NE. There is no clear dividing line between Pinehurst and the Northgate neighborhoods. If you split the difference (based on label location) then Pinehurst ends a couple blocks south of Pinehurst Playground.

        Victory Heights is south of Pinehurst. Again, there is no clear dividing line. Victory Heights playground is directly east of the Northgate, less than a mile (certainly not two) from the freeway.

        The center of Maple Leaf is the hill. Every Maple Leaf place I know of (Maple Leaf park, Maple Leaf Grill, Maple Leaf Reservoir, etc.) is clearly on the hill. The USGS puts the neighborhood on the hill. It also lists Morningside as a neighborhood between Northgate and Maple Leaf on the hill as well. I hadn’t heard of that one. Either way, it is a pretty big stretch to suggest that Maple Leaf goes all the way to Northgate Way. By the time you get to the bottom of the hill (and reach Northgate Way) you are in Victory Heights or Northgate (and may have passed through Morningside). At least that is what the USGS map suggests (and I think most people would as well).

        Much of the area is rather flat (for Seattle’s standards). Look at it on the topo map. There is a pretty big plateau that encompasses Victory Heights, Northgate and Pinehurst (again, using the USGS labels). I’ve walked and ridden my bike quite a bit in the area . I basically stay on that plateau (again, by Seattle’s standards) and avoid the steep dropoffs on the north, south and east. The flat (or if you prefer, flat-ish section) extends further west, but you have to cross the freeway. Morningside is the area on the way up the hill, and Maple Leaf is on the top of the hill.

        It helps if you actually do the research instead of just attacking someone. You might learn something. I did the research even though I obviously knew more than you and I learned something — the name of a neighborhood, Morningside.

    3. I walk every day on a hilly, non-sidewalked arterial in North Seattle to reach the bus. Although I continue to do it, I know it’s not hugely safe (the street includes a blind corner) and my wife is reluctant to do it. I think a sidewalk on that particular street would make a lot of people in my immediate area more likely to walk to transit.

      1. Exactly. Unlike fixing potholes, sidewalks are a safety issue. They also alter behavior. I wonder if anyone stops driving because there are too many potholes? But David and I both have wives that are reluctant to walk the street because of the lack of sidewalks. I wish people would consider that when it comes to paying for city amenities.

      2. I can’t say whether anyone eliminates their driving, but if there are similar alternative routes, they may change which streets they drive on.

      3. Actually, if you’re on a bike, fixing potholes not only makes the ride more comfortable, but considerably safer as well. Around my neighborhood, Ravenna, the single thing the city could do to make bicycling easier is not to add more bike lanes (most of the streets either have bike lanes already or are already low speed enough that sharing a lane with cars is not too big of a deal), but to fix potholes. Bus rides are also more comfortable on roads with fewer potholes and faster too, as the driver doesn’t have to slow down to go over them.

        Seattle has done a great job fixing a lot of potholes in my area the past few years, but there is still a lot more to be done in this regard.

    4. Sidewalks in certain places certainly do help! Along arterials (including minor ones) they’re vital. And near arterials, where traffic is waiting to turn or turning off the arterial. On a steep hill on the block before an arterial I’d rather have a sidewalk than not have one.

      Ubiquitous sidewalks on side streets may never happen in Seattle, but targeted sidewalk improvements should be part of major transportation projects. Some improvements near Northgate would certainly be appropriate, similar to some of those that will accompany RR E (though that project is, as I understand it, still weak on sidewalks along Aurora itself).

      1. >> Ubiquitous sidewalks on side streets may never happen in Seattle

        Yes, but we have two nice football stadiums and a separate baseball stadium. Priorities, I guess.

      2. >> Maple Leaf doesn’t really have any East-West arterials save for Northgate Way and two blocks of NE 92nd St.

        Nor does it have many sidewalks. That’s why 103rd (at a minimum) would make a lot a lot of sense for sidewalks. That way, someone coming from Maple Leaf could walk down Roosevelt Way and then over to the station. Someone who lived closer (on say, 104th and 8th) would walk on 103rd as well.

      3. @Ross: The stadiums make their owners money. Residential sidewalks have traditionally been built with developers’ money on developers’ land, making them sort of hard to bring in in a uniform way if they weren’t built initially.

        @Tim: There aren’t many east-west arterials, true. I actually don’t know this specific area all that well — I assume there are a few streets that are designed to accommodate through-traffic a little, semi-arterials like Latona/Thackeray in Wallingford, and those might be good sidewalk candidates. Generally more differentiation in this regard is nice — identify one street as the minor through-traffic street, install sidewalks on it, and traffic-calm all the others. Anyway, there are certainly lots of intersections with the major north-south arterials, and near those intersections there’s more traffic than elsewhere on the side streets, traffic turning off the arterials that may still be going fast but that you can’t see until it’s made the turn. So even on a side street, the block or half-block around an arterial is a good candidate for sidewalks with real curbs.

      4. 103rd (at a minimum) would make a lot a lot of sense for sidewalks. That way, someone coming from Maple Leaf could walk down Roosevelt Way and then over to the station

        They can already do that and we don’t have to spend a dime on concrete.

        From Roosevelt, I usually take 97th or 98th. Neither have sidewalks and my walk would not be any easier if there were sidewalks.

        I assume there are a few streets that are designed to accommodate through-traffic a little

        Lots of drivers would agree with that. Which is why many of the northern E-W streets are one-way: to prevent cut-throughs. 103rd is one of these, and much to the dismay of those living on it, drivers routinely ignore the “Do Not Enter” signs.

      5. Arterials should obviously be targeted for sidewalks in areas without them.

        Sidewalks have always (well, for over 100 years) been required by the City of Seattle of any developer. The rub is that the areas of the city without them weren’t inside the city limits when they were built (typically in the immediate wake of World War II, when the nation was seriously in love with the private automobile, did not perceive the downsides of pandering only to automobility, and there was a severe housing shortage which prompted a surge of building that outpaced the growth of municipalities).

    5. Sidewalks will NOT make it easier to walk to the station. It’s hilly terrain, and the fact that your feet touch concrete instead of asphalt makes no difference.

      No. It’s much safer and more pleasant to walk on sidewalks, hills or no hills. I live on a street that’s pretty narrow, with parking on both sides and no sidewalk, and it’s both annoying and dangerous.

      1. We’re not talking about your street; we’re talking about the ones in the vicinity of Northgate Station. These streets are 25-30 feet wide.

      2. 25-30 feet gets very tight in a hurry when you’ve got two-way traffic trying to pass pedestrians. The street I live on is about that wide and it gets hairy when you’re passed by two cars at once. Frequently the car on my side will slam on the brakes at the last second as if the driver expected me to jump into the mud and bushes.

        Sidewalks would be a huge improvement.

      3. David is right. We gave examples but somehow Tim thinks that our wives don’t exist (or are just frady-cats). I’m not sure which.

  4. Strangely, access to even bad transit can promote walking. I started part of my commute by bus to avoid the price of parking downtown. But over time I’ve found it’s almost as fast to walk, so I walk almost every day it isn’t raining (that’s at least a month or two per year, right?). Would I have chosen to walk 1.6 miles each way as part of my commute if there wasn’t a bus option? Likely I would have just paid to park downtown.

    1. That’s funny because I tend to start at the other end of things. For example, I live northeast of Northgate and started a job in Fremont. I can get a frequent (and fairly fast) bus to the U-District. So I tried walking from there. It was just too slow (and I’m a fast walker). I tried taking the 44, but that is pretty slow, too (a transfer plus a bunch of walking to get from 46th to the heart of Fremont). Fortunately, my wife was eligible for a bike locker at the UW. So, I take bus to the U-District, get my bike out of the locker and then pedal the Burke-Gilman to Fremont.

      1. Yet bad transit has promoted your biking! If the bus was faster, you’d be getting less exercise.

  5. Anybody got a PDF of that paper? “Does neighborhood walkability moderate the effects of intrapersonal characteristics on amount of walking in post-menopausal women?”

    I live in Ravenna, half a mile from Whole Foods. Out of a dozen neighbors on my street that I know well only two ever walk to the store, and only occasionally. It takes 10 minutes to walk, 6 to bike, and 2 to drive. Everybody already owns cars, and most of the cost of the car is fixed, so the car it it (I used to walk but now I mostly bike). That’s what you get when there’s too much parking. Everything is pushed apart to make room for cars, and walking becomes less efficient. Aside from Third Place Books/Vios there’s nothing much worth walking to. Nice gardens, though.

    1. I live in Wallingford, five blocks south (i.e., downhill) from QFC. At all hours, in walking to and from the store, I run into my neighbors doing the same, or walking to and from the restaurants on 45th. At a point, one gets to a critical mass where walking is considered safe. We are fortunate to have done so.

      1. I’m in Wallingford as well and walk everywhere. I think the combination of a concentration of retail added to a lot of traffic congestion makes walking both more pleasant and more efficient than taking the car.

      1. QFC has been well-demonstrated to have a higher “basket of goods” price average than Whole Foods.
        In fact, the only grocery chain in all of Seattle more exorbitant than QFC is Metropolitan Market.

        The difference is that Metropolitan markets itself as a luxury establishment, while QFC sells itself to a segment of the middle class that self-identifies as upwardly mobile but not “frou frou” enough to walk into a Whole Foods and discover that it’s actually cheaper, not to mention better.

        But, you know, way to obliterate facts for the sake of an easy meme.

      2. The pedestrian connections to the Whole Foods in interbay are downright awful. You have to walk quite a bit along 15th just to get to the a crosswalk, further to get to a staircase that goes up Queen Anne. I never use this store – the Whole Foods in Roosevelt is a much more pleasant walking experience.

    2. The reason for walking instead of driving to the Whole Foods is not really about money – it’s about stress. Walking is relaxing and the walk to the Ravenna Whole Foods is pretty scenic from almost every direction. If you are coming from the southeast, grocery shopping could quite literally be a walk in the park. By contrast, driving and worrying about which row has the empty parking space, not dinging other cars as you park, etc. creates stress.

    3. If you drive to a grocery store, you can buy *a lot*, load it in your car, and be home in two minutes to unload your cargo.

      If you walk to a grocery store, your carrying capacity is limited by your physique (how big or small you are), your strength, and if you have kids with you to divert some of your energy and attention from carrying things. The result is that you have to go grocery shopping much more frequently.

      I don’t think it should surprise anyone that people who have cars tend to drive to nearby grocery stores.

      1. You’re right, you can buy a bunch of food with your car and never have to walk anywhere or carry anything. But that time you “save” driving, you’ll end up spending at the gym (if you care about your health) walking on a treadmill. I would personally rather walk to the grocery store several times per week with a backpack then schedule 30 minutes to plod away at a treadmill.

  6. I’m not surprised. I’d wager that dwelling size is highly correlated with walking rates.

    Ravenna is full of big craftsman houses with giant kitchens, garages, yards…who needs to leave these beautiful private paradises? Between the upstairs fridge and the downstairs freezer, you’ve got a month’s supply of food. You can entertain yourself in your own yard. You can tinker with tools and hobbies in your own garage or basement. The incentive is to make fewer, larger shopping trips and that means getting in the car. Even if only for a few blocks.

    The smaller your place, the more frequently you need to make trips outside the home. You simply can’t store as much at one time. These trips are more likely to be made on foot.

    The walking infrastructure is probably even less a factor than the geometry of the dwelling space.

      1. I do most of my grocery shopping at the whole foods, on foot, and only have to go twice a week. I live about a mile away, which translates into about a 20 minute walk each way.

        What makes it doable is that the walk is both safe and interesting. Safe because there are sidewalks everywhere. Interesting because the walk involves a lot of up, down, and turns, not to mention the different trees and houses that I pass buy. During the day, I can even arrange for most of the walk to go right through Ravenna Park.

        I do have the U-village QFC as an alternative, which is half the geographical distance as the Whole Foods, but the walk to the QFC is much less interesting (half on 25th Ave., the other half cutting through the U-village parking lot). The result is that if I have the time, I usually choose Whole Foods, even though it is a little further away.

        The other thing about walking to the store is that if I’m tired or the weather is bad, the trip can usually be simply postponed to the next day, when the weather is better or my energy level is higher. This goes into one of the big differences between walking and driving. Walking is about enjoying yourself and having fun on the journey. Driving is about simply getting your groceries and getting the trip over with as fast as you can. And if you later end up having to later drive to the gym for exercise, you haven’t actually saved any time either.

      2. @asdf, well put. I have by chance some similar options. As do my neighbors. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that will walk 20 minutes each way to get split peas from Cash & Carry or gas at 7-11 for the mower. Doable and doing it are entirely separate things. We do have a very well used trail on 134th that avoids the need for many to drive to a gym, circle the parking lot to find the closest spot, and then do their 30 minutes of cardio. I count a well used multi use path as being a “walkable” amenity to this neighborhood.

      3. Interesting. I’d rather do the walk each day, most of the time. It’s nice to see the neighborhood. But I live 2 blocks from the grocery store, so it’s not much hassle. (This is why old neighborhoods had so many tiny grocery stores. Put those back and I think you’d see more walking.)

      4. I was just struck yesterday, how hard they make it for tens of thousands of students to access U-Village any other way than in a car. I see a lot of students taking the bus, but then the walk is still really a bit hairy.

        Creating easy bike and pedestrian connections between the university and it’s “village” shouldn’t be either hard or particularly expensive. Then maybe they wouldn’t have needed to build that massive, horrendously ugly new parking structure (and remove that one mildly interesting way to walk, at the same time!).

        I don’t get it.

      5. biliruben, the audience for U-Village isn’t students — the management there would rather keep them out. It’s the affluent people living in neighborhoods north and east of the mall.

      6. The Office Depot in the U-Village puts up a wonderful fence forcing students living in the dorm next door to take a long detour to reach the store. Without the fence, it would be feasible to walk, even carrying heavy furniture in a shopping cart. With the fence, you almost feel obligated to literally drive across the street.

    1. Those old Craftsman houses are small by modern standards. They usually *don’t* have giant garages because they were built in the early 20th century when it wasn’t necessary. If they have a big kitchen it’s because they ripped out the original and took over part of the dining room or one of the bedrooms. Or built an addition. And large yards? Not so much. You are describing modern suburban houses, not early-20th-century in-city SFH neighborhoods.

      Modern fridges are freaking behemoths, and that’s true no matter what size the house. Buy a smaller fridge and I promise you’ll get out of the house more. (I have a 1931 GE Monitor Top. It’s small. And it has plenty of room if you’re not buying weeks’ worth of food at a time.)

  7. Oh please …

    This says more about Ravenna, where everyone seems to drive, than a similar place with sidewalks like Fremont, where everyone walks, bikes, or takes transit.

    Shows how little you know about the neighborhoods.

    Next up: people in Georgetown drive while Capitol Hill uses bus or walks. Duh.

    1. Fremont is far denser than Ravenna, and Capitol Hill is far denser than Georgetown. They’re not “similar” in the least.

    2. People on Capitol Hill walk because they have to park so far away from their house, and then run the risk of not finding a parking space on the other end.

  8. Is it legal to build new stairways connecting streets that are separated by steep hills? Or does the fact that a stairway is inherently not wheelchair accessible, and an outdoor elevator prohibitively expensive, make it illegal for any new stairway connections to ever be built?

    1. I don’t know about entirely new connections, but they are currently in the process of totally rebuilding the stairway between 42nd NE and the BGT at NE 130th, so it’s at least possible to renovate them.

      1. Yeah, though the old stairs were fine. I wish they’d just built a sidewalk instead, so you could get the stairs safely.

      2. And they also totally screwed up the design which theoretically should have allowed you to roll your bike up and down. They placed the handrails almost directly over the groove, so it’s unusable. Stupid.

  9. Restaurants don’t make a walkable neighborhood – you need shops that people actually use frequently. Granted, it’s been eight years since I lived in Ravenna, so I don’t know how the neighborhood has changed, but I have a much more walkable lifestyle here in the suburbs than I ever did then. Ravenna may have nice walk scores, but the reality was, there just wasn’t anything there worth walking to. I walked to catch the bus to the UW every day, but I was a broke grad student, so I didn’t eat out and the grocery stores weren’t close enough to walk to regularly (I was halfway between Whole Foods and PCC, but usually just stopped at the Wedgewood Safeway on my way to/from somewhere in the car). I now live less than 1/4 mile (including the parking lot) from a fairly typical suburban shopping center – grocery store, drugstore (with post office!), hardware store, plus more that we don’t use often. It’s close enough that I can walk there with my little kids, so if we can buy it there, we do.

    1. Ravenna has lots to walk to. Between the Roosevelt business district, the PCC, the U-village, and the shops in the U-district, the amount of shopping available within a 20 minute walk or so is actually quite large.

  10. I would make the distinction between “walkable” (the neighborhood enables walking) and a neighborhood that makes walking the most viable option. In places where parking is a nightmare both in front of your house and at your walkshed destination (Fremont, Cap Hill), driving isn’t really very viable, so you’re “forced” to walk. (I don’t like using that word because it sounds so negative, like walking is a bad thing, when, it’s not necessarily.) Ravenna is not a neighborhood that forces people to walk. I mean, street parking can be a challenge but it’s not nearly as much so as in Fremont.

    So, I think sidewalks make a neighborhood “walkable,” but it doesn’t make walking the prefered method of transport. Put another way, sidewalks are merely a prerequisite to making walking the prefered method.

    One other thing that stops people from walking to shopping: small children. Have you taken your two small children grocery shopping lately? It sucks. A lot. Now add in a half-mile walk home carrying the groceries and pushing the double stroller. Or, now add in a wait at the bus stop with two squirmy kids, followed by having to carry the groceries and the small kids (and maybe a stroller that Metro makes you fold up) on the bus. It’s exhausting. Next time you see a parent with kids and groceries on the bus, be nice to him/her, s/he is probably having a horrible day. Now imagine trying to buy your food every day, so you have smaller bags to carry, instead of doing a stock-up once a week in your car. You have to do that same awful trip with the kids walking or on the bus every day? I mean, it’s easy to see why people with kids choose driving. It takes a serious commitment to transit and walking to do a car-free lifestyle with kids.

    1. Here is my advice for doing car-free shopping trips with small children:

      1) Walk or bike – do not use the bus. If the items you buy frequently are too far to walk or bike to, consider moving to a different home that is closer to stores that have the stuff you need.

      2) If walking, put groceries in a large backpack while you push the stroller, or use extra space in the stroller itself, not taken up by the kids. If biking, carry the groceries in a trailer. Never depend on those cheap paper bags the store gives you to carry your groceries home. Those bags are built to last from the store’s front door to your car in the parking lot and no further. Try to carry your stuff all the way home in them and they will always tear.

      3) Do shopping trips without the kids if at all possible. (I know – sometimes it’s unavoidable because there is no one to supervise them at home).

      4) If the store is too far to walk or bike to, again do not use the bus. Instead, either find a closer store that sells the same thing, or avoid the trip altogether and shop online. Almost anything these days can be purchased online. Online shopping works extremely well for bulky items like paper towels, toilet paper, or diapers, that would otherwise be a pain-in-the-ass to carry (*). Don’t worry about the shipping costs. With what you save by not owning a car, shipping is chump change.

      5) For the very rare occasion when the store is too far to walk or bike and physically seeing the item before you buy it is very important, you have Zipcar. In nearly 3 years of living without a car, I don’t think I have used Zipcar for shopping more than once, and that one time was on the way back from somewhere else.

    2. I’m lucky enough to live walking distance to several grocery stores. Usually I take one or the other kid, mostly on foot, sometimes on tricycle or in the wagon. When they were stroller age I would take one or the other in the stroller – lucky enough to have them separate enough in age they weren’t both stroller-bound at the same time.

      I’m not sure where you get ‘every day’ from though. Several times a week yes – but not every day.

  11. I think the core problem is one of American “Efficiency”, bred into us by the Puritan Work Ethic, and exploited by corporations and Madison Avenue. I know that sounds hippy-dippy, but let me elaborate.

    I live on North Beacon Hill, very close to both the link station and the Red Apple Market, but I often find myself under some self-imposed time restriction, and fighting the urge to drive up to the Red Apple when I could (almost) walk there in the same amount of time.

    The neighborhood is imenently “walkable” – little grade, sidewalks everywhere – but the deal breaker is always that nice big parking lot, custom designed for lazy people like me. I wouldn’t dream of driving downtown to work – especially with Link right there, and an employer provided Orca Card – but I struggle with that walk.

    1. One thing that can help with problem, tremendously, is a residential parking arrangement where it is possible to exit your building on foot without your car being the first thing you see. Depending on where you live, it might be possible to manage this temptation by intentionally parking your car somewhere that is not immediately in view the instant you walk out the door, even if it is a little further away. If you live in a single-family house, for example, you can park halfway down the street, rather than right next to your house.

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