How walkable is Walker’s paradise?

Julia Koschinsky, Emily Talen, Mariela Alfonzo, Sungduck Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article tests the extent to which a measure of walkable access is a good proxy for the quality of the walking environment. Based on existing findings on inequalities of walkability, we ask whether this relation varies between neighborhoods with low and high incomes. Walk Score is used to measure walkable access while the State of Place Index is applied to synthesize the qualitative urban form dimensions collected as part of the Irvine Minnesota Inventory. Simple bivariate correlations and difference-in-means tests assess the relationship and difference in average scores between the two. We draw on an existing sample of 115 walkable neighborhoods in the Washington, DC metro area that Mariela Alfonzo and colleagues had collected for previous research and that we augmented to include additional low-income neighborhoods. Our results reveal a strong and positive overall association between walkable access (Walk Score) and walkability (State of Place). However, this association masks problems with the quality of the walking environment that are significantly larger in low-income neighborhoods (even those with very good walkable access), especially regarding connectivity personal safety, and the presence of litter and graffiti. As a proxy for walkability, Walk Score’s walkable access measure is, therefore, not equally strong across all neighborhoods but declines with income. In this sense, Walker’s Paradise is more walkable in higher than low-income neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-363
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2017


  • Accessibility
  • Built environment
  • Design methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Urban Studies
  • Architecture


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