Walk Score is a wonderful thing, but it is not perfect. Therefore, it now has some competitors. The newest would-be Walk Score killer is Walkonomics, a site that tells you more than just how close you are to shops and restaurants and other places to which you might want to walk.
Ideally, you also want to know things like how safe the streets are, whether the sidewalks are wide enough, how clear the signage is, and also — less tangibly — how clean the street is, and whether it’s relaxing and fun. Distance, in other words, is not the only factor — perhaps not even the most important factor.
Walkonomics has categories like hilliness, fear of crime, and “smart and beautiful,” which measures how clean, litter-free, tree-filled, and lined with attractive buildings a street is. Which sounds useful enough.
But for now Walk Score is in no danger of being overshadowed. Walkonomics’ site is a bit slow and clunky and covers only a few cities. Plus, so far it’s actually not that useful. I checked out the ratings for my old block in the East Village and for Jane Jacobs’ old block in the West Village, and both did terribly, even though they’re both extremely walkable and located in desirable parts of the city.
Both, for instance, scored a 1 on a fear of crime, which I think artificially elides the difference between the yuppier-than-thou vibe of the West Village and the still-maybe-slightly-edgy vibe of the East Village. According to Walkonomics, though, most New York streets are places to live in fear. (Which, OK, don’t wave your wallet around, but come on — if crime were so scary as to keep pedestrians off the streets, this city would look very different.) The streets also got remarkably similar scores on beauty, hilliness, cleanliness, and ease of crossing, but the actual experience of walking down them is pretty different.
In other words, this tool isn’t the greatest for comparing streets within cities right now, and it claims that two of the more walkable neighborhoods in New York are terrible to walk in. Still, it’s a good idea! We hope the execution will improve.