It is really no surprise that Vancouver has been named the most walkable city in Canada by Walk Score which looks at population, block length and density to ascertain their “best of” ratings. By looking at the proximity of walking routes to amenities, Walk Score ranks places dependent on amenities within a five-minute walk.
The fact that Vancouver is walkable and has championed the ability to access shops and services within minutes of walking is really the result of a group of concerned citizens who started to meet in the early 1990’s. This group included landscape architects, planners, students and historians that later became the Urban Landscape Task Force, charged with creating walkable connections through the existing street grid, parks and public places. One of the great legacies that came out of this Task Force is the creation of the City of Vancouver Greenway system, that links streets where walking and biking has precedence over cars. These greenways stretch from boundary to boundary across the city, and are streets where there is always a sidewalk, curb cuts at crossings, pedestrian/cyclist activated lights, plantings, and route signage. It was a remarkable piece of work that mandated that every resident of Vancouver should be within a twenty-minute walk or a ten-minute bicycle ride from a greenway.
In the United States New York City was named the most walkable, with Sydney Australia being the most walkable in that country. Walk Score defines walkability as “access to public transit, better commutes, and proximity to the people and places you love are the key to a happier, healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.”
But before everyone gets excited about Vancouver’s ranking-it is not a “walker’s paradise” which Walk Score defines as cities with scores over 90. Nope, Vancouver’s score is 78, with Toronto at 71 and Montreal at 70. There is still a lot of room for improving Vancouver’s walkability with better attention to universal accessibility, sidewalk texture, width and design, benches for folks of all ages to sit on during a walk, and more comfort, safety and priority for pedestrians on the street. The Walk Score also does not take into account Vancouver’s discouraging record of pedestrian deaths, with the majority of those fatalities being seniors legally walking across marked intersections. That’s where more work also needs to be done by the City on slowing traffic and ensuring safer pedestrian experiences.
And here’s Walk Score’s List of Most Walkable Cities by Country;