Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

SIDE STREETS: Colorado Springs ranks behind Oakland? Really?

BILL VOGRIN Updated: September 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

A recent ranking placed Colorado Springs just 34th among large U.S. communities in walkability.

Whoa! This is where you can get on a trail in Palmer Lake and walk, run or bike 35 miles all the way to Fountain!

How can we rank behind top-rated New York City in walkability?  New York scores an 85 and the Springs gets a measly 45?

The Springs has 102 miles of urban trails — and 100 more under development. Are they comparing the Midland Trail to some alley in Queens?

Even worse, the top 10 “walkable” cities includes Oakland? Ever try walking around Oakland?

OMG!

Heck, we have trails that snake from downtown, through our neighborhoods and out to our sprawling suburbs, which cover 200 square miles.

Bingo!

As usual, I had stumbled onto the exact point of the walkability ranking by Seattle-based Walk Score without realizing it.

The ranking is not about places to stroll or bike along scenic streams or through pine-scented forests.

It scores residents’ ability to do basic errands on foot or bike. The Springs fell in the “car dependent” category. New York, Oakland and the others are in “walker’s paradise.”

Oakland? Really?

I guess Oaklanders can easily walk (I’d suggest briskly walking) to the grocery store, pharmacy or (I'm guessing here) self-defense classes.

The website rewards places where folks can leave their cars parked and get to work and school. Places where you can bank, find day care, get a good meal, exercise or catch a movie on foot.

Let’s face it, it’s tough to leave your car at home here.

Did I mention the 200 square miles we occupy?

Walk Score’s Josh Herst encouraged cities to improve their scores.

In a news release, he said houses in walkable neighborhoods have higher value because of their proximity to amenities.

Plus, they generate less pollution and boast healthier residents, he said. Folks living in walkable neighborhoods typically weigh eight pounds less than residents of a sprawling suburb, according to his research.

I checked out Walk Score’s website, www.WalkScore.com. It’s very cool and include rankings of individual neighborhoods.

Old Colorado City came in first with a 59! Downtown scored a 58. Both are pedestrian-friendly and have lots of public gathering places. They are mixed-use and blend retail, commercial and residential as well as all income levels.

Falcon ranked last with a score of 5 while upscale Flying Horse scored a 6.

(See details on my blog.)

But there’s hope. Ryan Tefertiller, a senior city planner, said recent changes to the downtown zoning encourages “walkability.” And the city would help developers apply walkable concepts in all new neighborhoods.

“I think the zones make sense in certain areas,” he said. “In theory, I could see one in Old Colorado City, or North Nevada Avenue or South Academy Boulevard. It would make sense.”

Sounds great. As long as we improve our score without turning us into another Oakland!

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