Walkscore.com has a tool that rates neighborhoods in 40 different cities and tells you how walkable the neighborhood is.
Back in the 60’s, population was shifting to the suburbs. Everyone wanted a slice of the American dream. A piece of land. A yard. Safe streets and good schools. The result was acres and acres of urban sprawl. I myself grew up in one of these new areas and I can’t even begin to describe how safe and how good and how utterly boring they were.
Researchers have just begun to document the negative effects of this type of housing development. Bedroom communities require cars to get back and forth, adding to a larger carbon footprint and increased gasoline expenses. Social cohesion is lost. People stop walking and are measurably heavier, as health risks associated with obesity increase.
While many urban planning students would rather sell their soul to the devil than listen to a developer, this tool is fairly interesting. Maybe there are a few real estate marketers who do have a soul, or at least know how to talk about the values that come into play when people choose a neighborhood.
They came pretty close with my neighborhood, rating it 45 out of 100, and my old campus neighborhood just west of the Loop an 86. Of course I didn’t choose to live here because it was walkable, I chose it for being cheap place for student digs and for having an interesting main street with a Polish bakery, now sold, and a colorful local corner coffeeshop, now burned down. Also there was an absence of gang signs in the neighborhood. That has changed too. Within a one block radius of where I live, there are probably more than a dozen gang signs on the garages and stop signs, including one on the back of the carriage house on the property where I live.
My move to this neighborhood was part of a 3 year plan, now going on seven years. Maybe it’s time to take this website and figure out where I want to live next.