Five of the most unwalkable places in the world
For this final instalment of FAIL Week, we take a look at a few places that you would never want to set foot in. These cities and neighbourhoods are meant to be experienced in a bucket seat, and it shows!
1. Eagle Bend, Jacksonville, Florida (The entrance has no sidewalk.)
According to Walkscore.com, this is the least walkable neighbourhood in the least walkable major city in America, which I think is saying quite a bit. They rank areas based on proximity to services, stores and transit – all of which are next to non-existent in Eagle Bend, earning them a flat zero. Based on the Google Map view, it isn’t difficult to see why. The gated community is adjacent to a river but not any kind of urban fabric.
In Toronto, homeowners are responsible to shovel the snow off the sidewalk in front of their houses in winter. In Amman, they’re responsible for building it in the first place. As a result, we see sidewalks that are too narrow, giant changes in elevation (pictured) and homeowners will even use “their” sidewalk as a place to put giant potted plants. Thankfully, residents are fully aware of the problem and the mayor has established the Amman Institute for Urban Development to guide the city’s pedestrian renaissanace.
3. Hespeler Road, Cambridge, Ontario
Now, Hespeler Road isn’t as extreme as our last two examples, but it represents an urban form that we’re all familiar with: the chain store strip. I chose Hespeler Road because it has a feeling of endlessness to it. It’s the primary retail centre for a city of 120,000 and it is entirely devoid of public space or atmosphere of any kind. In 1973, the three towns of Hespeler, Galt, and Preston were merged by the provincial government into what is now Cambridge. All three continue to be small, pleasant walkable communities. But the triangular area between the three became wide open for development, and now we have a city centred around five kilometres of unadulterated sprawl.
Tysons Corner is an edge city in the extreme. Situated between Washington, DC and it’s airport, it has become infamous in the area for how egregiously it has sprawled. Transit is almost non-existent, sidewalks will end or be interrupted by a giant post. It would be easy to ignore and avoid, if it wasn’t for the fact that it has over 33 million square feet of commercial space. Tysons has a nighttime population of 20,000 but it quintuples to 100,000 during the day, because of the influx of workers. The complete lack of consideration for pedestrians means that there are traffic jams at noon from so many lunch runs. Thankfully, just like in Amman, people have realized the insanity, and a redevelopment is forthcoming, along with a new subway line. And if the last time is any indication, Fairfax County knows how to retrofit a suburban area.
5. Arlington, Texas (Try to picture these expanses of parking!)
I’ve written here about Arlington, Texas before. While the rest of the world appears to be progressing to a transit and pedestrian friendly future, Arlington sits obstinately in the auto-obsessed past. The voting public has refused any kind of transit twice, reportedly because they “don’t want those kinds of people”. Unless you’re living in a city where you can walk from one end to the other, transit is an integral part of walkability. The built form is what you’d expect for such a city, despite its strategic location at the center of a metro region of 6 million.