One of the things I like best about living in Salida, Colo., is that this town of 5,500 offers a good pedestrian environment with narrow streets and wide sidewalks though much of town,
Although it's not quite so easy as it used to be, we can still manage most of life's routine commerce on foot. Supermarket, pharmacy, clinic, library, post office, liquor store, barber shop, bookstore, office-supply store, coffee house, brewpub, schools -- along with many other shops and services, they're all within walking distance.
My wife and I once tried to see how long we could go without driving. We managed about 10 days before we needed something too big and heavy to carry home on foot.
My caregiver at the local clinic extols the health-enhancing aspects of walking, and walking your errands is obviously better for the environment and your bank account than driving. And by and large, pedestrian-friendly places offer higher wages and maintain higher property values, among other virtues, according to Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist and a senior editor of the Atlantic magazine.
How walkable is your town? An outfit called Walk Score has rated America's 2,500 largest cities (Salida was too small to get rated) on a scale from 0 (driving is required for just about everything) to 100 (you never need to drive). As you might have expected, new York (85.3) and San Francisco (84.9) scored well, while places like Fort Worth (36.1) and Laredo (32.7) scored poorly.
The national average was 43, and the averages for most Western states were within a point or two of that. One notable exception was Arizona with a score of only 29. On the other end were California at 50, Oregon at 51 and Montana at 52.
Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.
Ed Quillen is a freelance writer in Salida, Colo.