Why this Indicator is Important
Walkability measures how easy it is for residents to travel around the city by foot, including being able to access workplaces, schools, grocery stores, and other essential services and amenities. By decreasing emissions from transportation, high walkability is a key factor in reducing GHG emissions. It also promotes equity by ensuring those who cannot afford a car or are unable to drive can travel around the city as easily as anyone else. While many factors influence walkability (including seasonal weather), a community’s walkability is largely a result of municipal governments’ deliberate and researched action to provide active transportation infrastructure that favours pedestrians and discourages reliance on automobiles. Urban density, ensuring roads are designed with sidewalks, curb-cuts, and pedestrian crossing lights, good street lighting, and regulating lower vehicle speeds on residential roads are just a few ways that cities can increase pedestrian-friendliness. They can also ensure city design connects pedestrians to other modes of green transportation—for example, ensuring everyone lives within a certain distance of a public transit stop.
Data Availability and Accessibility: 3/3
To measure walkability, we rely on cities’ walkability scores, designed by Walk Score.1 Walk Score evaluates cities around the world and is used reliably by realty, city planners, healthcare planners and many other businesses. Scores range from 0 to 100 points. A score of 90 to 100 means that all errands can be done without reliance on vehicles. A score between 70 and 89 means that most needs can be met without use of a vehicle. Scores descending from 49 define a city as increasingly car dependent. For further in-depth understanding of the relationship of walkability, bike lane development, transit development and the use of green space and housing densification, the website of the Institutefor Transportation and Development Policy, www.itdp.org is very helpful.
Note(s): Data are from Walk Score®. (2022). This score considers a number of variables such as distance to amenities and pedestrian friendliness.
The winning city, Vancouver, British Columbia, is a model walkable city with a Walk Score of 80. In 2019, Vancouver initiated a four-phase plan development that heavily relied on citizen input. The result, “Climate 2050”,2 adopted as policy in July 2022, promotes three main themes within the goal of establishing a sustainable city by 2050: create more housing, support the local economy, and address climate change. The plan proposes increasing the density of the urban space by developing neighbourhoods around the 15-minute city concept. Neighbourhoods would be culturally vibrant and support local businesses, arts, culture,valued amenities and public spaces, and they would be linked by an expanded transit system that centres on Vancouver’s recently developed monorail. The third prong of the plan addresses carbon emissions by continuously improving transport, so it is more sustainable, by creating denser housing across neighbourhoods, by restoring and expanding green spaces,by protecting water courses and shores and by growing the forest canopy. These initiatives all nicely dovetail with the creation of a walkable city and with making the 15-minute city a reality.
Barcelona, Spain, is promoting walkability in its city by implementing the “superblock” project.
With its unique urban design, Barcelona had the ability to merge multiple blocks together to create a superblock. As of now, five superblocks have been created. These superblocks are designed to give back roads to pedestrians and cyclists, as well as promoting greenspaces. The removal of many roads and over 3500 parking spaces were required. These changes in urban planning have led to reduced GHG emissions, increased walkability and cycling, and a reduced urban heat island effect. The new parks and plazas created from the removal of roads and parkings lots have allowed residents to enjoy a safer and healthier lifestyle. The cleaner air and reduced noise levels have made spending time outside much more pleasant for citizens.3