Four benefits of walkable neighborhoods


Demand for walkable neighborhoods is at a record high. In some cities this has begun to make properties in walkable neighborhoods cost prohibitive, so now the suburbs have an opportunity to reshape themselves to help meet this growing market for places people love. Below are four of the benefits of walkable neighborhoods that have fueled their increasing popularity.

1) Your Health and Happiness: Studies have found that the average resident of a walkable neighborhood is less at risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease than their counterparts in sprawling neighborhoods. In large part, this is because a neighborhood that is designed to be walkable allows the pedestrian to cover more ground in less time and incentivizes foot travel over the automobile.


Caption: A one-mile walk in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge versus a walk of the same distance in Bellevue, WA.
Source: Lawrence Frank & Co. and the Sightline Institute

Over a prolonged period of time, this extra daily activity can make quite a difference. As an added bonus, a successful walkable neighborhood make numerous amenities such as grocers, businesses, and entertainment accessible to the pedestrians, who can avoid the frustration that comes with traffic congestion.

2) Your Environment: Feet, whether on the ground or pedaling a bicycle, emit zero CO₂ Fossil fuels, on the other hand, account for the majority of CO₂ emissions. Walkable neighborhoods allow their residents to circumvent the use of the car, especially if they concentrate services to be within a five-minute walk of each other. That way you don’t have to drive from place to place to complete a day’s worth of errands. Reduced driving lessens the amount of CO₂ emissions and benefits the global environment, but also provides its own set of advantages for the local environment, including a reduction in traffic noise, increased pedestrian safety, and streets that belong to the public, not the automobile.

 3) Your Finances: Outside of a home, cars are often the second most expensive purchase that a household will make. But even after its purchase, the average American will spend over $9,000 per year on a car, including fuel and maintenance from mileage. Living in a walkable neighborhood with alternative transport options can significantly reduce this cost, as every mile you don’t drive saves you 60.8 cents.

On the flip side, homeowners located in walkable neighborhoods find that their properties have greater value. The company Walk Score has found that one point of Walk Score, drawn from their data on a neighborhood’s walkability, can be worth up to $3,000 for a property on the housing market. This makes such real estate a worthy investment.

4) Your Community: As an alternative to zooming around alone in an automobile, walkable neighborhoods increase the opportunity for daily interactions between neighbors and can strengthen these bonds within the community. In turn, this leads to increased social engagement and community trust. With streets dedicated to people, not cars, walkable neighborhoods also have the capacity to host more community events such as block parties and outdoor markets.


Caption: Outdoor market along 7th Street SE, Washington DC.