Well, it looks like Midtown deserves its bragging rights.
It's the most walkable neighborhood in Memphis , according to Walk Score, winning the designation over the expected winner, downtown.
However, at this point, we're putting an asterick by the winner, but we'll get back to that shortly. We've written previously about Walk Score and the ability to score your home or business or favorite place's walkability, but today, it added a feature that ranks neighborhoods.
Midtown finished at the top of the list by Walk Score with a score of 53, compared to 52 for downtown.
East Memphis/Colonial/Yorkshire was third at 48, River Oaks/Kirby/Balmoral was fourth with 44.
A neighborhood had to score more than 49 just to get out of the "car-dependent" category and into the "somewhat walkable" group. A score of more than 70 was judged to be very walkable.
By way of comparison, Nashville had 25 neighborhoods that scored higher than Memphis Midtown's 53; however, we can take some pride in the fact that as a city, we still finished ahead of Nashville in the rankings of 40 cities. Memphis was #35 and Nashville was next to last at #39.
According to Walk Score, our city's overall walkable score is 43, reflecting our umbilical relationship with our vehicles.
The city with the highest score was San Francisco with an 86, and adding insult to injury, somehow, Houston (#26) and Atlanta (#22) finished ahead of us.
If you want to know what the perfect walkable neighborhood looks like, think New York's Tribeca (100), Dupont Circle (99) or Chicago's Loop (98). As far as we're concerned, there's no argument that they are the standards that our city should be pursuing.
But here's the thing. The boundaries for our neighborhoods are based on no definitions that we've ever seen before.
Our complaint isn't about the conclusion that 7% of Memphians have a Walk Score of more than 70 (our firm's score downtown at Union and Front is a highly respectable 90, by the way), or that 29% have a score of more than 50 or that 71% of Memphians are car-dependent; however, in looking at Memphis neighborhoods, East Memphis stretches from Overton Park to I-240, taking in more than 100,000 people, and Midtown runs from Kilowatt Lake in North Memphis to the Defense Depot. Other cities have dozens of neighborhoods on the list, so we think that while the overall city ranking wouldn't change, by better identifying Memphis neighborhoods, we can show that some Memphis neighborhoods – real neighborhoods - are highly walkable.
All in all, Walk Score looked at more than 2,500 neighborhoods, meaning that the average city had about 60 neighborhoods. Memphis has only 12.
Despite this, it's still a revealing portrait of Memphis, and completes the image of a city that is neither walkable nor bikable (more about this in coming days). More and more each day, it's clear that in our love affair with the car, it's our city's quality of life that is getting screwed.