That’s the verdict of a new Brookings Institution study that ranks the most walkable American cities in a counterintutive way: Instead of counting the number of daily chores or recreational activities a person can complete in their neighborhood without the use of a car (as other surveys have done), this study counts the number of supposedly "walkable" neighborhoods in a city, and then ranks cities according to how many walkable areas they boast per capita. But neighborhoods where development is boosted by government subsidies aren’t included, meaning there’s a bias here toward upper-income, white areas. In Washington, D.C., for example, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, the West End, Adams Morgan, and Capitol Hill are called "walkable," but not Mt. Pleasant, U Street, or Columbia Heights, which are all, in my daily experience, equally walkable, but are less affluent. Another flaw, recognized by the author, is that the report also doesn’t consider the relative size of walkable neighborhoods. Therefore, midtown Manhattan is counted as one "area," as is Reston town center in suburban north Virginia, a fauxhemian "planned community."
In my mind, New York, which ranks #10 on this list, will always be more walkable than Washington for one simple reason: Your local supermarket will deliver your groceries in New York! You shop at the store, your food is bagged, you pay $5, and an hour or so later, an employee of the supermarket delivers your groceries to your home in exchange for a tip. This beats picking your produce over the Internet. And it makes life without a car much more pleasant.
cross-posted at TAPPED