Denver: A Walkable City

Denver has recently been ranked by Smart Growth America as the 14th most walkable city in the United States.

Here is a look into how it landed there and what walkability means.  

Denver Skyline From The Highlands Neighborhood

The results are in and Denver ranks number 14 on the list of most-walkable US cities. Some may be surprised by this as Denver has large blocks, broad streets and an overabundance of surface parking lots in its core: all signs of an auto-centric city (i.e. designed for cars not people). Bike-able, maybe, but walkable? Turns out it is.

Background and walkability defined

Smart Growth America, a non-profit organization that advocates for properly-planned-and-functioning cities, conducted a study of American cities to see which were the most supportive of living urban life by foot. It is not debated that pedestrian travel is healthier (exercise!) and better for the environment (no emissions) than travel by automobile, so it is no surprise that analyzing comfort for pedestrians is an important enough factor to rank cities by. Beyond health of self and environment, it should also be noted that cities friendly to pedestrian activity also enjoy economic benefits. When people aren’t struggling to slow their cars down to check out your business, you may be more likely to have customers and definitely more likely to have window shoppers. So then, how did they decide Denver was the 14th most walkable?

The study and results

When analyzing cities for walkability, Smart Growth looked at urban neighborhoods including the downtown. It did not look too much at the periphery of the city, i.e. closer to the suburbs, too much because it is clear that suburban living relies heavily on the use of the automobile. It did, however, look at the most walkable parts of some suburbs. An example of this as applicable to Denver would be Lakewood’s Belmar. Looking back to the central neighborhoods, here are some hard figures:

Denver’s Central Business District had a walk score of 97/100. This means that amenities (food, retail, entertainment, other commercial) are enough to support the amount of people who live and/or work in the area and within a reasonable distance. Also at the top of the list, as no neighborhood is 100% walkable, was the Cherry Creek neighborhood which also had a score of 97. The LoDo and Baker neighborhoods tied for the second most walkable neighborhood with a walk score of 95. The City Park neighborhood came in with score of 89 and Capitol Hill scored an 88. From here, Denver’s neighborhoods become less and less walkable.

How Denver compares

At # 14, Denver does well compared to most cities, as was proven by the scores aforementioned, but could do better. These are the cities that have more walkable neighborhoods, in descending order: Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, New York and, at # 1, Washington, D.C.

It makes sense that the nation’s three largest cities are in the top five. High population density is directly correlated to fewer automobiles and therefore greater access to goods and services by foot.

Find this information interesting? Check out Smart Growth’s full report at http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/locus/foot-traffic-ahead/. Thanks for reading!