Walkability Entails the Full Walking Experience, Not Just Access to Resources

Blog post by Yonah Freemark, Eleanor Noble, Peace Gwam
May 11, 2022

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)

Commonly cited walkability metrics like Walk Score usually reduce walkability to one attribute: proximity to key destinations like schools, transit, work, and retail. Although these metrics are important for identifying mechanisms to improve quality of life and pointing out inequities in access for people of different backgrounds, none provides a holistic examination of walking, which covers not just where you are going but also if your neighborhood is safe, equitable, and enjoyable to walk through.

To address this gap, we developed a new tool that examines multiple measures of the walking experience in Washington, DC, including access to key destinations, environmental quality, infrastructure conditions, safety measures, and likelihood of being stopped and frisked by the police. These measures provide more comprehensive indicators of pedestrians’ actual experience and demonstrate that different areas of the city have varying improvement needs.