I used to live in Frankfurt, Germany, and more or less in the city centre - just the other side of the river from the main train station. It was a great city for walking, especially in the summer, but the fantastic public transport of trams, metro and buses meant that it was easy to mix and up and take a break from working whenever needed! Now I'm in London which is also a great walking city, and pleased to see that London got a good score.

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With respect to climate, it’s not just the intrinsic conditions that matter. It’s also a question of what aspects of the city amplify or mitigate the worst extremes of local weather. As the planet warms, it is critical to add shade and reduce the amount of heat absorbing pavement in many cities.

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To walk you need functional sidewalks, bridges with pedestrian paths, nice crosswalks, proper lighting, and so on, so you are not killed or mauled by a car, moped, or bike.

No Chris, to walk you need legs that move really fast.

The fact that you quantify what is infrastructure is needed before walking is absurd.

You sound like a first time walker.

Go walk in Hanoi. I lived there for two years, Life is cheap, people's lives on foot even cheaper.

Go walk in Singapore, a pleasure, clean neat all the things a modern city should be. Walking is safe there.

Singapore is not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is chaos, unplanned, dirty and unsafe for mopeds, pedestrians and even trucks.

The world needs more pedestrians, it needs more targets to chase after.

Great article by the way. Rene Jax

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I don't think many people in Tokyo, Seoul or Switzerland want to migrate to the US in general, let alone because they want to stop walking or take the train and travel only by private car. The mass migration to the US comes from Latin America, and is obviously for economic reasons. I suppose to the extent that in Latin America taking the bus means poverty, it is true that they are wanting to escape that, although one has to say that buses in the US are often filled by working class immigrants.

The idea that wanting to walk or take the train is elitist doesn't make sense, considering these things are much cheaper than cars. Yes, cars are convenient and people want cars as a choice. This is true in Tokyo and Switzerland, so the idea of abolishing cars is silly. However, I think there is an obvious middle ground, where people have cars, but they mostly walk and take public transportation, because those things are more convenient and cheaper and their cities allow or encourage them to do so. I don't think the masses in Tokyo or Switzerland are clamoring for the destruction of their public transportation, and I don't think Americans are fundamentally any different in this. Americans will take public transportation or walk more if it is made convenient for them. Obviously, if taking public transport means having to potentially fight with half a dozen crazy homeless people, nobody's going to want to do that.

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I'm a New Yorker. My house in the country had me driving to a place where I could take a walk! And you've touched on the reasons why the NYC Marathon is one of the best. It's a great running city too.


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Mar 1·edited Mar 2

Curious if you're read Jane Jacobs- The Life and Death of Great American Cities. A great book from the early 60s critiquing the suburbanization of the United States. She also calculates proportions between building height, street width, and sidewalk proportions that feel good to humans. "Walkability" for me includes whether the neighborhood feels good for a walk- that usually means multi-use buildings, at a scale that feels comfortable.

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I think the importance of walkability skyrockets with kids in the house. My young kids walk/bike/bus everyday, to school, to visit friends, sports practice, etc. It gives them some autonomy and independence, which I think is too often undervalued as a key part of childhood development. And it allows my wife and I to do our jobs and tend to other things. We still end up driving around, but driving in a walkable neighborhood doesn't take long because the grocery store is 1/2 mile away, etc.

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Great piece. I am interested in your weightings of the different aspects of walkability. I think reasons to walk is crucial so needs an increased weighting whereas walking infrastructure, although important needs not be top of the rankings. If there is to be some reduction in car use on environmental grounds, people need a reason to walk rather than use alternatives'.

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Please add Miami to the list so that I can see quantitatively just how awful it is.

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As a fellow devoted perambulator, I'd add another category: running. That is, I always take the opportunity to run when visiting a city, usually early in the morning. This doesn't always go the way one might think. For example, while Hanoi can be a challenge on foot, I found it a pleasure to run.

On the other hand, while Viennese drivers are good with walkers, runners appeared to infuriate them!

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City walkability: Don't care.

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I've never been a driver and believe the automobile to be the ugliest/biggest threat to a wholesome society. To be totally dependent on a mono-product that makes the entire world bend to your will is absolutely horrific to anyone who isn't actively driving. Even drivers hate other drivers for creating traffic. To enjoy driving is a sign of madness. I've lived in several states and only travel travel by bicycle. I'm 35.

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Feb 24·edited Feb 24

Despite hazards to walkers, welcoming, alert people on the street can make a place like Hanoi a real pleasure, But I have been "hit" by motor bikes there nine times, never hit hard or injured and they are nice after it, but a constant stress,

I trust nobody driving a bike or a car in Hanoi.

And in many areas you often have to walk in the street since sidewalks are crammed full with business and motor bikes , with too many driving the wrong way on a one way street.

You generally like people, perhaps not a common trait . I also much enjoy riding buses since I like the company,

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My apologies for not being able to respond to all the wonderful comments. I was traveling all yesterday, and my motel has crappy WiFi.

I've read most of them, and I appreciate all the feedback. I wish I had spent a little more time talking about which of the variables I consider the most important, and which the least.

Maybe I'll write something more detailed up eventually. But I think the category, "climate/crime/pollution" is underappreciated the most in online discussions.

Crime especially.

I might also add in another category -- drivers attitude, which is part of Pedestrian infrastructure, but goes beyond it.

Some places have a culture of not caring at all about pedestrians -- as I'm being reminded here in Phoenix.

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I'd love to see what you think of Toronto. Do come visit, walk around, you'll like it. But come in May or June, not Jan or Feb.

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For the first time in my career, I have to drive to work and while there are benefits mostly in terms of flexibility, I really miss commuting via bus or train. You don't get the physical exercise of walking which can really add up over the year, and you don't get the mental exercise of bumping into people who are not like you - and its these chance interactions that really add depth to the human (urban) experience. Heck its the basis of Chris' sub-stack. Also, US suburban drivers drive like self-centered maniacs and if they hit you its not with a Hanoi moped its with a $65,000 Range Rover or a massive 3-ton Kia Telluride.

We chose to live in a walkable railroad borough (Narberth) outside of Philadelphia and it is such a pleasure to be able to walk to the movies, restaurants, bars etc. I mean how many suburban residents walk to their dentist? However, our borough has lost three really key establishments in the last 15 years - the pharmacy, the hardware store, and last year, the independent IGA grocery. The pharmacy is not that big of a loss as independent pharmacies are pretty common around here, but the other two are big ones. In both cases, the kids didn't want to run the business and there was no one else interested to keep in going. The owner of the grocery store retired at age 83 and he was making hoagies at the deli counter the last day his store was open. His daughter dutifully ran the place for 20 years but wasn't interested in 20 more. I understand her feelings but its a big loss for the community, although there are regular chain grocery stores still within walking distance (<1 mile).

Narberth is about 8,000 per square mile, and I found that a very "elite" desirable walkable place outside Boston, Brookline Mass, is also 8,000 per square mile. I feel like 8,000-10,000 is the minimum threshold for a walkable community. Does anyone else know of any data on that front?

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