Planning and Urban Design folks will recognize this illustrative plan of Seaside, Florida. Designed by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and developed by Robert Davis. A place built to demonstrate that narrow slow speed streets lined with straightforward buildings could be a built in modern times. Seaside is a well known iconic project for the New Urbanism. After a couple decades the project is still not completed and continues to evolve.
The brick streets are 18 feet wide, flanked by parallel parking on crushed oyster shells. The streets deflect or terminate every 300-500 feet and people casually walk in the streets with vehicles creeping along occasionally outside of the town center which has generous sidewalks in front of the shops and restaurants.
There is a network of pedestrian pathways at the interior of the blocks. When my kids were young they loved the place and knew every shortcut.
So what happens when you use WalkScore to check out this incredibly walkable place with a chapel, parks, bike rental, a school and soccer field, music venues, a postoffice, restaurants, a wine bar, an art supply store, bookstore, and lots of shops, galleries, cafes, and a small grocery? You get a very comical result. Because Seaside does not have formal sidewalks or bike lanes outside of County Road 30A and the Town Center, it has a low WalkScore (48 out of 100). Walk score figures this is a Car Dependent neighborhood. If you have ever strolled the long way back to your rented cottage wandering your way back from a swell meal at Bud and Alley’s down the middle of the brick streets you will probably find the WalkScore to be hilarious.
Seaside demonstrates that it is possible to calm traffic on local streets to the point where folks driving a vehicle are acutely aware that they are in a place where pedestrians and bikes are the order of the day and that vehicles must drive very slowly. That level of careful design and pragmatic construction is on a completely different level from the metrics that feed into the WalkScore Algorithm. Don’t get me wrong. WalkScore is great for people who have a hard time recognizing a walkable place without the help of a real estate agent…. (-or you could go walk around and see the place for yourself).