Take a hike

Homebuyers and renters have a new element to consider when searching for a place to live.

Your mother was right—walking is good for you. And what better way to exercise the theory than to live in an area with a high “walk score.”

Walkscore.com claims to “help homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods…Walk Score shows you a map of what’s nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property.”

According to the site, “walkable” neighborhoods tend to have characteristics including a distinguishable center; enough density to support local businesses and public transportation; residents with varying incomes; plenty of mixed-use properties; parks and public spaces; well-connected streets; a pedestrian-centric design; and close schools and workplaces.

Basically, the user enters an address and the site—with an assist from Google maps—determines a score based on its proximity to the much-needed amenities of modern life: grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries and drug stores.

On a scale of 0 to 100, a score of 90 to 100 is equivalent to a “walkers’ paradise,” meaning that most errands can be accomplished on foot and many people can get by without owning a car. Think most neighborhoods in New York City or London. Scores from 70 to 90 represent “very walkable” neighborhoods, which don’t require a car to get around. Think inner suburbs. The lowest range, 0 to 25, is reserved for “driving only,” those areas that have virtually no neighborhood destinations within walking range. Think large swathes of the American West.

Plugging in comparable addresses in different cities yielded some not-so-surprising results: Chicago’s financial district had a walk score of 83 out of 100; San Francisco’s financial center a score of 91; Boston’s financial district yielded a score of 97 and PERE’s own New York bureau had a walk score of 100 out of 100.