Perhaps the greenest form of transportation is walking. We’re all born with the ability to walk (well, save for the few with birth defects) and it is a very low impact way to transport ourselves from place to place. Walking is good exercise, it promotes blood circulation, and can increase heart activity. Walking requires very little energy input, other than the food we would be eating anyway. Walking has minimal land use requirements and is extremely safe for other pedestrians. Walking puts us in contact with the natural world around us, and walking is a very natural innate thing for humans to do.
Most other transportation systems have some negative impacts such as diminished exercise, a separation from the natural world, have various dangers and potential death scenarios, extensive energy requirements, and extensive land use requirements. Hence it seems a clear way to green our transportation system is to encourage more walking.
Walk Score is a website which aims to measure walkability. They claim walking can improve health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and other environmental problems), and that increased population density offers more transportation options, increased social life on the street, and a more vibrant local economy. The system identifies walkable neighborhoods, defined as places with a defined center, enough population density for local business to flourish, a mix of income levels, parks and public spaces, pedestrian-centric design, and nearby schools and workplaces.
It works through an algorithm that pulls in various data sources including business and school locations, and street maps. Various factors are weighted for each address to create a walk score between 0 and 100. While the methodology looks pretty good they are the first to admit to a few flaws. For instance they don’t account for the unwalkability of lakes and rivers, nor do they account for neighborhood shortcuts like pedestrian walkways.
You can try it yourself on their website at walkscore.com.
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