We just moved to our lovely little lakeside community and every evening I see people out walking their dogs and enjoying life in Port Dalhousie, so I assumed our new address would get a high score. However, when I plugged in our address it was only given a score of 33/100. This surprised me a little until I read the definition of the score: “25 – 50 = Not Walkable: Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.” Even though it is lovely to go for walks in our neighbourhood, it really is tough to get any errands completed on foot so I guess I have to agree with this ranking. This is, perhaps, the number one thing I’m having a hard time adjusting to here. Prior to this we lived in Kingston, ON and in Edmonton, AB and in both cities it was very easy to walk to work, to the grocery store, to the bank, etc. In fact, we didn’t even have a car in Kingston and the only reason we had to get one in Edmonton was so that we could drive out and see my family who live about 30 minutes out of town. In Niagara, however, things are quite spread out and it is not always easy to get from one neighbourhood to another on foot. As is the case in many other cities in North America, grocery stores and other necessary shops are no longer found in most residential neighbourhoods here.
Over the past year I’ve also noticed a lot of neighbourhoods in the Niagara region that do not even have sidewalks. There are lovely walking trails all around the region if you go outside of the cities, but in town it is not always easy to opt to walk to do your daily errands. We did make a conscious decision to live in this part of town in order to be near the water (I guess because we grew up in land-locked Alberta we are simply enthralled with Lake Ontario!), so I knew I wouldn’t be walking to work. However, I did think I’d be able to walk to places like the local fruit stand down the road from us. There are no sidewalks or walking paths along that road though, and it scares the bejeezus out of me to walk right on the road towards the fruit stand because of how fast the traffic goes. I realize that this is largely because the area where the fruit stand is used to be farmland until very recently, but it still drives me crazy.
There are other neighbourhoods that are even less walkable. For instance, the situation is even worse up near campus (that neighbourhood got a 20/100 on the Walk Score scale) — I’m forever seeing students walking along the edge of the road because there are often no sidewalks for them to use. Whenever I see this I always hold my breath and hope that nobody gets hit by a car.
There are some local neighbourhoods that scored much higher on the Walk Score scale (especially in the downtown core of St. Catharines), but I guess for now the rest of us will have to go for walks in addition to running errands instead of combining the two things. In Port Dalhousie, however, this means things like walking down to the pier or the beach so I guess it is not all bad news!