Walkable Me

15 August 2008
3:56 PM

When I left Chile several months ago I was sad to say goodbye to my home in a now not-so-foreign land, but I was also ready to return to the U.S. Now, after being home since November, I find myself trying to recover pieces of my life away. After living off two suitcases for two years, I’m into downsizing: if I don’t use it actively or treasure it, it’s time to give it away.

One of the things I miss most about Chile is the ability to walk and take public transportation almost anywhere. People probably arranged the system from necessity. I didn’t have a car, and most of the people I knew didn’t either. I didn’t drive for over two years and as my return date approached, I was itching to get back into the driver’s seat. I realized quickly that I had to be in the driver’s seat, or at least in a car; the area where I live is in Utah is just built for driving. Sure, there’s a supermarket just two miles away, but you have to brave a four-lane road without a sidewalk to get there. In one of those ironic twists, I realized shortly after I got back to my car that I didn’t want it.

In Ogden, Utah I didn’t have much of a choice, but now I do. I just finished moving to Berkeley, California to start grad school in a few weeks. I’m in a small house close to two main streets with restaurants, grocery stores, the public library, a laundromat, the BART, and school all within walking distance. I can come close to duplicating my Chilean experience of missing an ingredient in the kitchen and crossing the street to get it. I also added a new tool to my transportation kit: a Kona Dew Deluxe commuter bike.

Kona Dew Deluxe I should have taken this photo on the road instead of indoors, but I’m waiting for my helmet to arrive so this baby’s parked for now.

How much more walkable is my new home? You might have to content yourself with my qualitative description if it weren’t for Walk Score, a Google Maps mashup that uses a set of criteria to rank the walkability of your home. Here’s my score:

Walk Score for my house in Ogden, Utah: 15 of 100

Using whatever metric Walk Score has in place, my home in Utah scored 15 of 100 on the scale, “Car Dependent.”

Walk Score for my house in Berkeley, California: 91 of 100

My new home scores near the top of the scale at 91 of 100, a “Walkers’ Paradise.” I’m not sure what I need to break into the 95th percentile, but I’m content with 91. What’s your home’s score?

I still have my car for weekend getaways, which is a nice luxury. The rest of the time, I’m taking a page from Frankie Valli’s playbook and walkin’ like a man.