Published: April 18, 2012
Who wouldn’t want to leave their home and take 10 steps to buy a fresh French croissant? Croissant-haters, of course, but you get the point: For many, walking to get most everything you need or want is an amenity. A web site called walkscore.com has been grading locales on this front since it started in Seattle in 2007.
Walkscore is out to promote “walkable neighborhoods,” and it does so by tallying how close homes are to amenities—whether croissants, bus stops, or hospitals—and ranking the results, 1 to 100, so users can find places where walking is king.
Baltimore, with a “Walk Score” of 64, stands respectably tall on this, given that the 2,500 largest U.S. cities have a collective 43. Among Baltimore’s 234 walkscored neighborhoods, the highest rankings go to Federal Hill (97), Sharp-Leadenhall (96), Otterbein (95), Mount Vernon (95), and Abell (94), all along the city’s spine from the Inner Harbor north to Charles Village. The least walkable are Wakefield (27), Franklintown (31), Beechfield (32), West Forest Park (33)—all along Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park—and Idlewood (36), next to Northeast Baltimore’s Mercy High School.
Geo-locally speaking, this makes sense. It’s the central corridor, where amenities are cheek-to-jowl with residents, versus urban suburbia, where, if you’re leaving your house, you’re most likely getting behind the wheel.
So how do these polar opposites compare on the defining quality-of-life issue for many Baltimoreans: crime? To find out, City Paper looked at crime in the five most and least walkable neighborhoods by running a three-month period from January to April through the Baltimore Police Department’s crime-mapping site (baltimorepolice.org/your- community/crime-map) and applying a per capita rate to the resulting crime count.
Our quick-and-dirty computations showed that while you were about twice as likely to be robbed or assaulted in Baltimore’s most walkable neighborhoods, people in the least walkable ones had greater reason to worry about rape, murder, and burglary. As for crimes against cars, yours had about an equal chance of being stolen in the least walkable neighborhoods as it did in the most walkable ones. Getting your car stolen from, however, is a different story.
Given that this is Baltimore, where your chances of becoming a crime victim are greater than, well, most anywhere in the United States, it’s probably best to be in a highly walkable neighborhood. That way, if someone shoots you and steals your car, you still can hop a bus to a nearby hospital.