In the old days, to figure out if your house, apartment, or place of work was good for walking, you'd have to go scout it out, or ask someone who knew the area. These days we have services such as Walk Score, a mashup that helps calculate how "walkable" an address is based on the services that surround it. It works by tallying up the distances to the surrounding attractions, and pulls them together in an average, which it gives you in a handy scale of 1 to 100. The higher the score, the more walk-friendly the area is. Simple enough right?
The businesses or areas of interest are based on 11 different categories, including grocery stores, bars and restaurants, book stores, and gyms. Not included are lines of public transportation or public bathrooms--which, as we've found in the past--can be mapped.
As you can guess, this system is neat but not without its flaws, and the site owns up to it. Inaccuracies with Google Maps' API data and the lack of information about sidewalks, street width, and crosswalks can easily provide data that is simply incorrect. Some of our test searches in the San Francisco metropolitan area came up skewed, my favorite being an area in the Tenderloin, which is by all accounts very unfriendly for pedestrians and personal safety, yet scored rather highly. Maybe they should mash this thing up with the crime mapper as well.