Friday, January 22, 2010

Walkability

When we bought our house, we weren't really looking for walkability. We deliberately chose to buy in a neighborhood that was more suburban than urban, even though it is technically located in Denver. We knew we'd be driving most places, and we're totally fine with that. Our neighborhood is completely residential, perfect for kids to play and ride bikes and for us to walk the dog, but not so much with the "oh I'll just pop down the street to get a cup of coffee" lifestyle. And that's totally OK with us.

Plus, things are super convenient. We're right near the freeway, 10 minutes from downtown, 15 minutes from a huge shopping mall, 5 minutes from two grocery stores, 10 minutes from Whole Foods and our gym, 10 minutes from the dog park, 10 minutes from Costco, 10 minutes from Target... basically it's Colorado heaven. It's exactly what we wanted. Even though I imagine that for some people with different priorities it would be more like Colorado hell.

So anyway, yesterday afternoon I had to go to the grocery store to refill my Synthroid prescription, and I had decided to make a new recipe for dinner and I needed to pick up a couple missing ingredients. I also needed to walk the dog. So finally a light bulb clicked on over my head and I decided to combine the two things.

So, the dog and I walked to the grocery store. It was about a mile and a half each way. It took me about an hour to walk there, do my shopping, and walk home. The weather was lovely, the sun was out, the dog enjoyed the new route, I got my errands done AND some exercise, and I didn't waste gas on an unnecessary car trip.

It's funny that we've lived in this house for nine months and it had never even occurred to me to walk to the grocery store before. And when I told Torsten about it he was shocked that I'd gone so far. I guess since we always drive there we always just think of it as being further than it is.

And, you know, in general I would certainly not walk if we were going to do all our shopping for the week, because that would be a long walk home with heavy bags and quickly-melting frozen goods. But for a quick errand on a nice day? Absolutely.

I still wouldn't give our neighborhood a very high score for walkability, but it's definitely higher than I initially thought. Plus, there's a Starbucks in the plaza with the grocery store. Having a Starbucks within walking distance is the absolute height of civilization, don't you think?

What about you? Is your neighborhood walkable? How important is walkability to you?

40 comments:

  1. Yes, absolutely, our neighborhood is walkable. We have a small downtown with restaurants, grocery store, a pharmacy, bookstore and plenty of coffee shops. It's great! We always walk up to the grocery store.

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  2. We've had this conversation before so you know that walkability is super important to me. Our neighborhood now is very walkable- to the point where we often don't drive all weekend. But I'm also a hefty drive from a Target. It's all about tradeoffs.

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  3. Our old house (which is exactly 11 blocks away from our new house) was in a more walkable neighborhood. There were two Starbucks within a four block radius (although we preferred the family owned cafe down our corner), a Whole Foods two blocks away, and a Super Fresh three blocks away. Now we live in a more residential 'hood and have to walk at least three blocks to get a cup of coffee. Actually I think the fact that we have to walk a little farther and there aren't quite as many restaurants immediately on our block, we'll have a little more incentive to cook at home.

    We basically live in Center City/South Philadelphia and love it. I could have moved farther into the 'burbs if I lived near a "downtown" area. I like the ability to walk to where I need to go. :)

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  4. My neighborhood is walkable for some things; we are about 5-6 blocks from the grocery store/walgreens/movie store (although who actually goes to the movie store anymore...sorry, off topic). We are also only about a block away from a ton of fast food places and gas stations, but they are not directly visible from our house/neighborhood, which I like. The best part of walkability (I like that word) from our place, though, is that we are only 3 blocks from an entrance to the Lakewalk, which extends, as you can imagine from the name, along Lake Superior. It's great for going on leisurely walks without worrying about traffic, or taking out of towners down to the lake without having to worry about parking. We are also only about 2.5 miles from work; we usually drive, but theoretically we could walk there or back (or bike, which is more likely).
    Of course, all this comes with a tradeoff - like pseudostoops, it's a hefty drive to Target and the mall from where we live...

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  5. In general, Texas SUCKS for walkability, but I do have a Starbucks within 1.5 miles, a 7-11 within a mile, and a grocery store within 2 miles. And actually, I used to walk to errands all the time when I had a new baby (she would sleep in the stroller). Now, not so much. I do miss it.

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  6. First, I have to ask, what did you do with the dog while you shopped?

    We live in a VERY SMALL town (we have... maybe 3 stoplights, total). When we moved into this house- almost 4 years ago- I wanted a neighborhood with sidewalks and big trees. Which is exactly what I got.

    So, during the warm months, we can and DO walk almost anywhere in town. I walk or bike the kids to tennis, or theater class, or the library, or downtown for coffee/lunch/David's office. We also live about 5 blocks from the kids' elementary school, so they walk home every day, even in the winter.

    The main things that keeps us from walking year round is 1- the cold but mostly 2- the snow. Our youngest (at age 3) is too small to keep up with us for any distance, but strollers on these mucky, snowy, slippery streets/sidewalks are a NIGHTMARE.

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  7. Wait, what did you do with the dog while you were in the store? Did she wait outside?

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  8. As you know, I live in the middle of Chicago, a VERY walkable city. Sweets and I chose to live inbetween two vibrant neighborhoods, so it takes us 10-20 minutes to walk to some of our favorite restaurants or bars, but it's really not that far. It takes us so long because we're usually strolling anyway!

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  9. Marie Green and Sarah663--I tied her to the bike rack just outside the entrance. Though actually I have seen some people take their (big) dogs into stores. Usually that's more like Lowe's and not so much a grocery store, though.

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  10. I am thirding Marie and Sarah....What did Montana do while you were grocery shopping? That would be totally awesome if the grocery store let you bring him in...

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  11. Since you came from DC, you will know what I mean when I say that I live in Old Town Alexandria and it's INCREDIBLY walkable and dogs are encouraged in all establishments! I am so lucky! Once the kids are out of the house (just a few more years for the last of them!), I'm getting rid of my car!

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  12. I live in a small town and on occasion walk in the warmer weather. I wouldnt really call it walkable though. Not in the sense that most cities are walkable.

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  13. Even in my ghetto fabulous neighborhood in south Chicago I still have a Starbucks withing walking distance! Although "walking distance" has been redefined for me since moving to Chicago--I think I was at least 2 miles every day. It really helps keep the pounds off, even if my nose and toes get froze in winter!

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  14. Thanks for answering the dog question, I was wondering too. lol
    Our neighborhood is not close enough to anything to walk. There's a gas station about 2 miles away, but there's not much point in walking to a gas station imo...

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  15. One of the (only?) things I loved about my neighborhood when we first moved in was how close the basics are: it's suburbia, but we can walk to King Soopers in 7 minutes. The library is ten minutes if I walk by myself, twelve if I have two kids who are always stopping to check out the ice dams in the gutters and pick up cool rocks. School is 20 minutes--25 if I have a complaining four-year-old in tow.

    Of course, after all this walkability I went and got myself a job that involves a 30-minute drive. But still--on the weekends, we can walk to library, bike to gymnastics lessons, even walk to pick up ski equipment.

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  16. We chose our 'hood *because* it is walkable. Though lately, I've been driving much more than I am comfortable admitting. I'm blaming my hacking cough :)

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  17. We're in a similar boat. Our neighborhood was designed around the New Urbanism trend, but they failed to mix the work/shop in with the live. We live a 5 minute walk from the grocery store, but I hate that grocery store and drive to King Soopers (probably a 15 minute walk - I should really just suck it up and walk that too). What did you do with Montana while you were in the grocery store?

    And it wouldn't go with your diet or your not spending lifestyle, but someday you should try a Duffey's roll from that same little plaza. Amazing.

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  18. I have zero walkability where I live. The nearest grocery store is 25 minutes by car. The mall is 35 minutes. Target, 30 minutes. Even the nearest gas station is 15 minutes. It's SO ANNOYING.

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  19. Have you seen this website? It rates the walkability of your neighborhood. Just type in your address.

    http://www.walkscore.com/

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  20. I live in the neighborhood with the highest population density in Canada. There are probably a hundred bars and restaurants within a 15 minute walking radius.

    I love Montreal.

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  21. Ah! I love this question, it's so interesting to think about.

    When we bought our house, walkability was important, but even more important was that we really wanted to live in a neighborhood, as opposed to a subdivision, if that makes sense. I grew up in a neighborhood that made me feel isolated and I didn't want to feel that way in our new house.

    Funnily enough, we mentioned the walkability to our real estate agent and she said "Well, this is California, there's not really walkability anywhere" and yet - we can walk to the park, a pool, a grocery store, starbucks, and the doctor. So I think we lucked out - if only we could also walk to the library and a few restaurants, it would be perfect.

    I adore our neighborhood and our house but if we ever move I think I want EVEN more walkability, if we can find it - I know it comes with a price, but I just love feeling like I am in the middle of "stuff going on".

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  22. Yay for your walk to the store! How fun.

    Walkability is probably the MOST important thing to me, and no, were we live isn't walkable to anything - even the mailbox. So, FAIL.

    But! It really is my biggest priority in our next house. A. knows this, and is wondering just how we are going to afford my obsession.

    In fact , my DREAM JOB would be to retro-fit suburbs into walkable communities and mini- satellite cities!!! DREAM! JOB!

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  23. When we bought our house we weren't thinking of walkability per se, though I was thinking of distance from ambulance/police. And it's not a practical area to walk because there are almost no sidewalks. BUT! In an emergency, even an "emergency" of the "car broke down and we can't afford to get it fixed right now" type, we could theoretically walk to the library and the grocery store and a drug store and a post office, all within 2 miles. The grocery store would be the trickiest because of frozen stuff, carrying, and because there are zero sidewalks that direction, but it would be POSSIBLE.

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  24. I live in a SUPER walkable neighborhood. And we drive ridiculously short distances all the time. It's part of being a Texan I think.

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  25. Walkability was one of the most important things for us when we bought our home. Although I work in the suburbs, my husband works downtown, and we both could not deal with constantly having to be dependent on a car to get to where we wanted to go. Our gym is a 10-minute walk and there is an abundance of cafes, restaurants, shops, and bars within very close range; there are lots of parks too which is great for when we have our baby in July. I couldn't live somewhere where I would have to get in the car to pick up milk!

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  26. I don't know why, but I was envisioning some really creepy stalker-type reader who would take the distance from downtown, and locations of shopping centers, Whole Foods, etc. in the Denver area to try and figure out where you live.

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  27. my neighborhood is very walkable. we live within two blocks of one of minneapolis' hot spots so we walk to restaurants and bars and shops all the time! but outside of that, we have to drive, which stinks because most parking is metered or pay lots!

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  28. I love that! You did your errands, got exercise, had quiet time to think, got some fresh air, and walked the dog!

    On Sunday, I got cheese and crackers at the little cheese shop, got myself a brioche and a latte at the French bakery, picked up a cabinet latch at the hardware store, purchased an engagement gift for a friend at an eco-friendly housewares store, got a takeout menu for the great taco place friends and I went to later that evening, had a cucumber martini at my new favorite bar, and picked up some necessities at the drugstore. And I never went outside of a two block radius of my apartment.

    I've found that walkability, for me, is absolutely essential and I love that my new apartment is so close to everything.

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  29. Last year there was a long bug strike here in Ottawa, right in the heart of winter. A lot of people wound up walking places they previously thought were too far, and even in the snow and cold, I read lots of blogs by plenty of bloggers that said that it was amazing how much closer everything is than you think.

    Since then I've tried to walk when possible, although our neighbourhood is like yours, total suburbia. This post has inspired me to take it a little farther next time!

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  30. Keep on posting such themes. I like to read stories like this. BTW add more pics :)

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  31. Our neighborhood is VERY walkable, which works out great considering that neither one of us has a car! We live right next to the park and ride where we can hop on a bus to get downtown or to other areas, and we have 3 grocery stores, 4 Starbucks (yes, FOUR), Barnes and Noble, a movie theater, Target, several restaurants, and Cost Plus across the street. It is GREAT! Plus we are within walking distance of our local brewery and almost 100 wineries. WIN!

    Sounds like you're in a great spot, too. It's nice to combine exercise with checking things off the to-do list :-)

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  32. our "neighborhood" is walkable...it's just that our neighborhood is surrounded by farmland, so the surrounding areas are not. we also have nothing near us at all. i love the walking trails through the neighborhood, but there is nowhere to go other than that.

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  33. i think you live right by where i used to in denver from your description :)

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  34. I WISH I lived within walking distance of a Starbucks.

    Our town is very small, about eight hundred people in general, which means that aside from the grocery store 3 miles E of my house, everything is pretty much within walking distance. And I've walked to the grocery store multiple times for smaller items.

    Still, I wish we had a Starbucks.

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  35. Oh, our neighborhood is VERY walkable.

    Well, maybe run, duck, dodge, cower, and dive-for-coverable.

    Too few sidewalks, too many dogs/bad drivers and now we are noticing signs of gang activity. AWESOME!

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  37. We live in a neighborhood defined by being the weird space between a bunch of other cooler neighborhoods and I can pretty much walk to anything I want. I don't always WANT to because there are crazy HILLS, but I've got grocery stores, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, whatever. And I haven't, but I COULD, walk to Target/the mall. I'm willing to move farther away from the city proper, but I hope hope hope to keep walkability in my life!

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  38. Oh, I need walkability. But also, I'm very willing to walk far distances. My grocery store is only about a 10-15 minute walk, school is a 20 minute walk, and hardly any of my friends live further than a 30 minute walk away. I don't have a car, and I don't see myself being able to afford a car for a very long time. I hate waiting for buses and I can't ride a bike all year, so- walking it is! Eventually though, even when I can afford a car, I think like you, I'll still enjoy a nice long walk on the regular.

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  39. Ha! Yes, now here's something that's important to me. TT and I choose not to own a car and walk/cycle/use public transport to get everywhere. When I say we live 15 min from the city centre, I mean a 15 min walk. We both walk a few miles every day just getting to and from work, with another few miles added on if we do something in the evening. When we get a dog, the mileage will really stack up!

    Although it's nice to have a low carbon footprint, we mostly choose this lifestyle because we enjoy it so much. We live in a very arty, bohemian neighbourhood with some great independent shops, bars and cafes close by. When we were looking for somewhere to buy a house the area really stood out because it has a cosy, friendly neighbourhood feel and is mostly made up of Victorian houses with small gardens, there's a couple of large parks and local schools, but it's still only a mile to a bustling city centre.

    I may be a little bit in love with my neighbourhood :)

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