How far will we walk to go somewhere? It depends.

We have a number of formal and informal ways to think about what makes a good walkable community.  I’ve written before about the popsicle test (can a child comfortably walk to buy a popsicle and walk back home?), the Halloween test (does the neighborhood attract kids walking door-to-door on Halloween?), and the 20-minute neighborhood (can you meet most all of your daily needs within a 20-minute walk or transit ride?).  My friend Steve Mouzon adds the tourist test (is the town or place good enough that people will want to vacation there?); Scott Doyon, not entirely in jest, likes the “pub shed” (how many drinking establishments are within walking distance?).  For those who like numbers, the increasingly sophisticated Walk Score calculates the number and types of typical destinations within comfortable walking distance of any given location and assigns a rating based on the outcome.

Steve has now added another, very interesting idea to the mix:  he posits that, in fact, “comfortable walking distance” is not a constant but a variable, and that the distances we are willing to travel on foot to do something depends on the quality of the environment along the way.  Steve calls his concept “walk appeal.”  Streets and neighborhoods that entice us to walk farther have greater walk appeal.

In Steve’s provocative blog Original Green, he illustrates the idea by comparing two different environments that produce very different outcomes as to how far one is likely to walk: