1. You’ll lose weight: The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6 to 10 pounds less than someone who lives in a car-dependent neighborhood .
2. You’ll save money: Transportation is the second largest expense for American households, costing more than food, clothing, and health care.
3. You’ll connect with people: Studies show that for every 10 minutes a person spends in a daily car commute, time spent in community activities falls by 10 percent.
Sounds like an infomercial, right?
Actually, it’s an info graphic created by the California Association of Realtors on the benefits of walkability. Walkability has become an increasingly hot topic in the real estate space – driven largely by buyer demand, which itself has been driven by renewed focus on health, connectivity, and the desire to save money and time through shorter commutes.
One of the main questions I ask when working with clients is, “What does walking distance mean to you?” The answer varies, but typically the answer is “under a mile.” So – Belmont is walking distance to Downtown. Parts of Rugby are on the cusp (but are certainly bikeable).
Looking at walking and biking to stuff purely from an economic perspective:
Walkscore’s new Bikescore offers up some strong reasons to cycle: “$10 saved for each 10 mile commute. One pound CO2 saved for every mile pedaled. 30 minutes per day of riding cuts odds of stroke and heart disease by 50%.” (Walkscore, 2012)
Forbes’ Pedaling to Prosperity lays out the ways that biking saves U.S. riders billions a year. Average annual operating cost of a bicycle: $308. Average annual operating cost of a car: $8,220. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of bicycle commuters grew 40% in the U.S. The average American household spends more on transportation (16%) than on food or healthcare. Low-income families may spend up to 55% of income on transportation when they live in auto-centric environments. (Forbes, 2012)
I have clients who are trying to buy a house closer to work because they want to save money on gas and spend more time together as a family. Currently they are renting close to their respective jobs; the guy recently changed jobs and now walks the approximate 2 miles to work – saving $200/month! That’s money better spent on housing, food, kids, dogs – life.
There are various groups in the Charlottesville area advocating for more and better pedestrian/bicyclist accessibility, including the newly formed Walk Charlottesville, ACCT, and others, yet the impetus must come from the consumers forcing themselves into the conversations, both market and policy. Accessibility has absolutely improved over the past few years … when the Meadowcreek Parkway and Hillsdale Connector become realities, the biking and walking commuter experience will be further enhanced and enabled.
Walkability/bikeability matters. Personally, I can’t quantify exactly how much this matters, but I know that it positively affects my life: In my neighborhood, I can walk or ride a bike to the grocery store, coffee shops, restaurants, hardware store, ice cream, schools … frequently with my family.
The bottom line: Less gas + more family time = happiness. And more money in my pocket.
Jim Duncan is a real estate agent in Central Virginia, and since 2005 has authored the longest running Charlottesville real estate blog, RealCentralVA. A partner and founder at Nest Realty, the local media consistently turns to him for real estate expertise and market analysis.