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Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester


A new report from the U.S. Census has some insight into why we don’t walk more. According to Jeff Speck, author of “Walkable Cities,” in order to encourage walking, the trip has to be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.

The Census data is based on 2013 samples. The area has 414,400 households.

Fewer than half of households – 47 percent – reported walking or biking. Most people didn’t give a reason why they don’t walk or bike. But top responses from those who answered were health reasons, traffic issues, lack of adequate sidewalks, not owning a bike and no place close enough to walk to.

As for adequate sidewalks, two of five households reported not having adequate sidewalks present. That’s 179,100 homes in neighborhoods without sidewalks. That’s 179,100 homes where people have to walk in the road to enjoy a leisurely stroll.

Only 11 percent of households reported having bike lanes in their neighborhoods.

Many householders were correct in saying walking and biking won’t get them to their destinations. Of the people who walk or bike, two-thirds said a grocery store was accessible. Fewer than half said retail shopping was within walking or biking distance. Little more than a third said they could get to health care services. Only one-third said they could bike or walk to school or work. (Check out Brookings’ study on distances between jobs and homes.)

Twelve percent of households reported using public transportation at least occasionally.

For advocates of walking and biking, this data is hugely discouraging. Our community is set up for cars. This has consequences for poor people, the environment, crash rates, land use and more. It also has consequences on our wallets. The study found households spend an average of $726 dollars a month on their cars, including gas, insurance, car payments, maintenance and parking.


Links of the Day:


– The demand for homes is high, but inventory is low in the Rochester region.

– “New York State legislature celebrated the Eve of April Fools by making a bad teacher evaluation system even worse.”

– Five of twelve charter schools that have opened in Albany have failed.

– “Is comedy supposed to offend people sometimes? Absolutely. Safe comedy is both more boring and less insightful.”

– I hesitate sharing this dumb, clickbait column from the D&C. This writer thinks we take out-of-town guests to Wegmans at the expense of other attractions. She sets up a false choice and comes off as very patronizing.


Check it Out:


8 Responses to Why We Don’t Walk

  1. Are you only referring to people who live in the city of Rochester? The title of the book you referenced is “Walkable Cities”. I live in Perinton, and I see many people walking. I think most of it is for recreation and sight seeing. Does that count? I grew up in Charlotte ( that’s still the city ), and everyone walked or rode their bike. I lived in Greece for many years. I saw many people walking their dogs or strolling with their kids. Here in Perinton, I bike along the canal path. I guess I really don’t know what you are looking for. If you really want to know if people are walking in the city NOT in the immediate downtown area, I would suggest you drive around the neighborhoods. I know when I have, you need to be REAL careful. Drive down Dewey near Driving Park. I guarantee you will see MANY people walking. They will be walking in the street. They will cross in front of you and DARE you to hit them. I’m sure it is the same in other neighborhoods as well. That’s my observations. I don’t know what city this book is referencing. But lets get to the real point…..you prefer a city life where everybody is nice and polite. A city where we live and work downtown. A city where we would jump on the subway if we needed to go from one side of the city to the other. The city would have parks and sidewalk cafe’s and be 80 degrees and sunny everyday. That does sound great. I want that too. Unfortunately, it isn’t here. ( maybe San Francisco ? I have never been there, but I know they have subways. I’ve seen pictures. )

    • April 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Metro area refers to the entire region.

      This survey asked why people don’t walk. They answered. People in the suburbs DO want to walk. That’s why many areas are now investigating complete streets and making areas more accessible for walkers and bikers.

  2. I kind of have to agree with OAJ, Rachel. You and the people over at the Rochesterait seem to have a vision of our area at odds with reality. A city where everyone is affluent, white, upper middle class, with very low crime, compact, dense, walkable urban villages with sidewalk cafes and it’s about 75 degrees year round. You and all the reporters at Channel 10. I have to love when Janet Lomax starts complaining to Kevin Williams in the middle of January that it’s bitterly cold and snowy. I don’t know if Janet reads this blog, but my tip is to move to San Diego if she wants it 75 and sunny all the time.
    As for the reporter at channel 8, I’m not really sure what you want of this city Rachel. It’s going down the tubes fast, with great disparities of wealth, education, health, etc. There is terrible corruption in City Hall, the Public Safety Building, which gets ignored by the media. Warren’s personal staff make over $2 million a year and no one even tries to reign them in, let alone Brooks’ development. How much did Bill Johnson get in kickbacks from Bay Ferries for the CAT? Never heard of that Rachel? Why not? There’s been no meaningful economic growth, it’s all lamp shading for “non-profits” like the U of R. To paraphrase our Governor “Create your own bland college “town”, U of R, not on the public dime.” We don’t walk b/c there’s no reason to do so in the suburbs and it would take an hour hiking on West Ridge Road to get to Greece Town Mall. I don’t have two hours to waste to go to a tasteless bland strip mall with chain stores. I need to get in and out.

    • April 4, 2015 at 5:55 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Many suburban areas are now investigating how to be more walkable. Why? There’s demand. It’s not just a city thing.

      And this idea that I want the city to be upper middle class? I moved into a neighborhood with high poverty. And people who need transit and walkable amenities.

  3. April 5, 2015 at 2:37 pm rochester_veteran responds:

    OAJ makes some good points about walking in the city. I lived in the City of Rochester for 27 years and at one time, when I was a kid, you could pretty much walk anywhere without harassment, but in a lot of city neighborhoods, it’s not like that anymore and you’d be taking a chance at becoming a crime victim.

    I do a lot of walking, but it’s mostly for exercise and not to get to the market, although I’ve done that when my vehicle has been broken down. The town actually improved the area I live in the Westside by putting sidewalks leading to our shopping area, making it safer for pedestrians.

  4. Forgive me Rachel. One of the things that people moving into dense, urban villages with cafes, shops, restaurants (Park Ave. or the Elmwood Village in Buffalo) are, is upper middle class, to gentrify an area. Obviously as a well-educated professional, I presumed that you are in the middle classes now. Sorry if you’re still working class.

    • April 5, 2015 at 6:45 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      You said upper middle class. That, I am not. Check out salaries of journalists. Click on an ad here to help 🙂

      But now that you mention those areas, it’s important to note their walkability makes them more valuable. That’s one thing to consider when discussing how to make a place more desirable.

  5. I think it’s a mindset. Our area accepted the car based lifestyle wholeheartedly, most people just don’t understand walking in any other context besides through a parking lot.

    People born and raised in the city or suburban villages, who walked as a part of life from a young age are probably more apt to walk than people raised in culdesacs and sprawling developments.

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