CITYWIDE — When you’re a pedestrian in Santa Monica, you’re in the 12th most walkable city in the country, and the fourth most walkable in the state. At least, according to Walk Score you are.
Walk Score is a Seattle-based group that gives cities, neighborhoods and addresses grades based on how easy it is to get around and do errands without using a car.
Walk Score takes note of nearby public transit stops, as well as the proximity of grocery stores, restaurants, schools and other amenities, to formulate the grade.
Walk Score also promotes neighborhoods for the health and environmental benefits of their walkability, as well as the economic benefits of walking, rather than driving, around.
The most walkable cities in California are West Hollywood, which received a score of 89, followed by Albany, 86, and San Francisco, 85. Santa Monica received a score of 82, tying with Berkeley.
“I’m very proud of that fact, and it’s something we’ve spent a long time focusing energy on here in the city,” said Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom.
“Sounds OK to start with,” Principal Transportation Planner Beth Rolandson said about the score.
Bloom cited the creation of the Third Street Promenade as an important step in making Santa Monica a walker-friendly city.
“That became a model for cities all over the country.” Bloom added.
A city that’s walkable is a healthy city, Bloom said. Being walkable is also an amenity in itself. “We’ve recognized that walkability is something that people look for in a community,” Bloom said.
Walking is valued in Santa Monica because of the close proximity of businesses to residential neighborhoods, Rolandson said.
It’s also simply a pleasant place to walk, she added.
Although it may be easy, the Santa Monica Police Department reminds pedestrians that it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings while walking.
Pedestrians are reminded to cross the street at intersections, and to stop, look and listen before crossing.
Eye contact should be made with drivers, and vehicles should be given enough time to stop. Pedestrians shouldn’t try and assert their right of way with fast-moving vehicles.
Small children, who are harder for drivers to see, should be accompanied by an adult when crossing the street.
Ultimately, a safe walker is a defensive walker.
City Hall is frequently at work making changes to the infrastructure to make it safer and friendlier for pedestrians to coexist with automobile drivers, Rolandson said.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve done a lot of investments for pedestrian improvements,” Rolandson said.
The medians on Wilshire Boulevard, curb extensions and the in-pavement flashing lights are all alterations made to streets and sidewalks throughout the city that are intended to help pedestrians be safe while crossing busy streets, Rolandson said.
In the future, the city intends to continue making improvements and policies that will keep communities walkable.
Santa Monica will focus some of its development resources towards making the distance between transit stops within walking distance, Bloom said.
Also, any new property that’s going to be developed will be oriented toward both pedestrians and the existing neighborhood, Rolandson said.
“We are also looking at locations where people have expressed interest in changing the environment,” Rolandson said.
Some of the places that have been considered for changes to make them more pedestrian friendly are the areas adjacent to the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Saint John’s Health Center, Rolandson added.
City Hall has also obtained a number of grants that will help it launch a program that encourages children to walk to their schools. As well as raise awareness for walking, city officials hope the program will help both parents and children feel more comfortable with walking in and around their own neighborhoods.