I decided out of curiosity to take the "walkscores" a step further. I divided Huntsville up into 14 sections/neighborhoods of various sizes and put them against 16 other communities in the region, everywhere from Mooresville (population 65) to Decatur (population 56,000). I selected up to twelve addresses in each neighborhood at random and took the average. The result: unscientific lists of the ten most and least walkable communities in the region.
A signalized crosswalk at Big Spring Park, Downtown. This location has a walkscore of 82.
- Downtown Huntsville-- No surprises here; most of the CBD and Historic District are very walkable. However, the most walkable address I found in the region was in #2. Most walkable: Lincoln Street. Least walkable: Searcy Homes, which still had a fairly high score of 69; coming redevelopment will probably raise this. Average score: 74.7
- Fayetteville-- a fine Courthouse Square and downtown make this Southern Tennessee city the place to beat. Most walkable: the large historic district, which is where I found the only "walker's paradise" (score of 95) in the region. Least walkable: its suburban fringes, which will only grow as Huntsville continues its march northward across the state line. Average score: 72.6
- North Downtown-- surprisingly, this largely industrial area (which includes up-and-coming Lincoln Mill) beat out established urban neighborhoods such as Five Points and Merrimack (#11). Most walkable: Lincoln Mill. Least walkable: the University/Parkway interchange, the convergence of Huntsville's two "Berlin Walls" (as said by a local bicyclist). Average score: 71
- West Downtown/Lowe Mill
- Terry Heights
- Medical District/Blossomwood
- Five Points
10. New Hope
9. Southeast Huntsville
6. Northeast Madison County
4. Hazel Green
3. Mooresville-- this cool 6-block historic town would seem like the perfect walkable community. But being sandwiched between 565, the Tennessee River, and farmland, there really isn't much to walk to. Average score: 9
2. Zierdt Road/Triana-- this sprawlicious area eked out of the bottom spot because I decided to include the town of Triana in the average. Most walkable: Triana. Least walkable: Beadle Lane. Average score: 8.5
1. The Coves (Hampton, Big)-- Hampton Cove is the only place where I found a walkscore of 0-- actually, half of the addresses I used had the lowest score possible. Most walkable: the closest you live to 431 and Sutton, the better (but not by much). Least walkable: Everywhere else. Average score: 5.6
I know these rankings and "walkscores" are somewhat flawed. I noticed that especially when addresses closer to major commercial corridors such as the Parkway and University got better scores. But it goes to show that if these major roads were made more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists, the surrounding neighborhoods would be much more walkable in reality.
You're also probably wondering how places like Ardmore and Athens got such high scores. These towns have compact, relatively lively downtowns that are surrounded by "pre-car" neighborhoods, where the streets are laid out in a grid. Businesses such as grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, schools, etc. are much less spread out in these towns than they are in Huntsville, making them more accessible by foot and bike.
Just in case you're wondering, Providence got an average score of 35, putting it right in the middle of the rankings.