Cleveland Heights is tops in walkability

Kenji, 6, and his father, Ken Sakaie, walk to the Main Library on Lee Road every Saturday to choose books to read in the coming week.

A new neighborhood-quality metric is commanding the attention of home buyers, according to such influential publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and–The Heights Observer.

The news is that home buyers are paying more attention than ever to walkability. Fewer and fewer people in the market for a house want large lots in remote places, where little is going on. Several factors make walkable neighborhoods more attractive, including a desire to avoid traffic congestion, an aversion to having to drive everywhere, and rising oil prices. Walkable neighborhoods also tend to have vibrant street life and a friendly character.

The most popular way to measure walkability is to consult Walk Score at www.walkscore.com. Type in a street address and receive a score comparing homes in your city and information on how far your home is from amenities, such as restaurants, coffee shops, groceries, shopping, schools, parks, books, bars, entertainment, and banking. Cleveland Heights is one of Walk Score's top three most walkable cities in Ohio–tied with Athens for second, just behind Lakewood. It ranks in the top 10 percent nationally.

Walk Score confirms what many of have long known: Cleveland Heights is a great place for walkers. We have places to go and interesting neighborhoods to see, and walking is a convenient way to get there. Unlike many suburbs, Cleveland Heights has sidewalks, stop signs at intersections, flashing school speed limit displays on major roads, and crossing guards so that kids can benefit from safe exercise by walking to school. Programs to encourage more kids to walk or bike to school are under way. In addition, all public sidewalks are wheelchair accessible, and our community center has treadmills and an indoor track so residents can keep trekking during the winter months.

With snow melting and spring starting on March 20, it’s time to put on your walking shoes and head for our coffee shops, parks, and other amenities. If you are looking for new sights, the history/architecture section of the City of Cleveland Heights website, www.clevelandheights.com/historyarch.asp, includes a new walking tour of Grant Deming’s Forest Hill Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. If you need motivation, consider getting a dog and joining your neighborhood dog owners in trips around the block–just remember to keep your dog on a leash and pick up the poop. If you prefer human companionship, follow a time-honored tradition and form a walking group in your neighborhood.

The walkability of Cleveland Heights should pay off in the long term. Increasing numbers of real-estate agents are mentioning walkability to prospective home buyers. Furthermore, a recent study shows that higher Walk Scores correlate with higher home values and lower foreclosure rates. In other words, it's really using your head to use your feet!

Mary Dunbar is a cofounder of the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 10:03 AM, 03.01.2011