Most walk-friendly cities in America

June 22, 2020
Craig Dietrich // Flickr

Most walk-friendly cities in America

The walkability of a city brings a lot of benefits onto the sidewalk. For one, residents are able to get more exercise, increasing both physical and mental health. Plus, walkable cities are more likely to have a stronger presence in the arts and civic-engagement worlds. To make it even better, 2019 research showed that kids growing up in walkable cities earn more when they’re older.

But in much of America, it’s practically impossible to get around without a car. People must drive to get to school or work, to run errands, or visit friends—since normally at least one of these destinations is too far away, or the roads do not have safe sidewalks. In some major cities, however, walking is much more feasible. One can cross a park to get to a friend’s apartment, buy milk on the way home from a jog, or stroll a couple of blocks to eat at a 24-hour diner. These cities have the density and infrastructure to offer residents a healthier way of getting around.

But out of all the cities in the country, which ones are the best for walking? Stacker gives you the top 50 in this list, using data pulled from the 2020 Walk Score tool.

These Walk Scores are calculated based on the walking distance from average homes to nearby amenities in the city (up to a 30-minute walk), and also take into consideration metrics of “pedestrian friendliness” based on population density and road conditions. The rankings include the obvious spots like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, but you’ll also find some surprising, overlooked cities—like Des Moines, Iowa, and Tampa, Florida. Read on to find out where your city ranks on the list, as well as that city’s walk score and the best-ranked neighborhoods within it.

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Simply CVR // Flickr

#50. Irving, Texas

- Walk score: 43.8
- Population: 216,290

By 2017, Irving had lost its major sports landmarks and needed a new way to keep residents and visitors attracted to the area. Thanks to a thriving corporate culture, the city decided to create more walkable pockets. Now, three neighborhoods stand out as epicenters of walkability: Plymouth Park, Plymouth Park North, and Espanita.

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#49. Des Moines, Iowa

- Walk score: 44.9
- Population: 203,433

When Des Moines decided to update its zoning codes in 2019, the city brought in consultants from Chicago who spent 19 months figuring out how to make the city more walkable. And although the city is still fairly car-dependent, residents in Carpenter, Sherman Hill, and Drake Park enjoy the walkability on track for the rest of Des Moines.

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Tupungato // Shutterstock

#48. Fresno, California

- Walk score: 44.9
- Population: 494,665

Residents of the Cultural Arts District, Little Italy, and Lowell in Fresno enjoy the same amount of walkability that’s coming to other parts of the car-dependent city. New housing developments on the northeast side are introducing 2,500 acres of space for living, working, and playing—all with walkable shopping and entertainment.

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#47. Norfolk, Virginia

- Walk score: 45.0
- Population: 242,803

If you live in downtown Norfolk, Highland Park, or ODU Village, you can enjoy proximity to almost a dozen restaurants within a five-minue walk. Developers are trying to bring that to other neighborhoods, too—like Norfolk's Historic Railroad District, a once-industrial area now booming with condos and business.

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#46. Toledo, Ohio

- Walk score: 45.3
- Population: 287,208

Although Toledo averages just one restaurant within a five-minute walk from any home, the Downtown and Warren Sherman neighborhoods have an 80% and 75% walkability score, respectively. Toledo also makes the top-25 list of cities where people can afford to live by the waterfront—so even if you can’t find a great restaurant nearby, you can certainly head to the lake.

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#45. Sacramento, California

- Walk score: 45.3
- Population: 466,488

Sacramento as a whole struggles with walkability as well as the safety of doing so In 2016, Sacramento had the highest rate of children (14 and younger) killed by cars while walking in the city; there’s even a nonprofit called WALKSacramento that strives to keep pedestrians safe. Of all the neighborhoods in Sacramento, Downtown, Midtown, and North Oak Park rate as the most walkable.

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#44. Dallas, Texas

- Walk score: 46.0
- Population: 1,197,816

Even with walkable neighborhoods like Downtown, Oak Lawn, and Henderson, Dallas residents generally regard the city as non-walkable. Until the coronavirus hit, that is. Mark Lamster writes for the Dallas Morning News that when the virus began to rage, people hit the streets in droves—and some things, like the addition of a bike lane or the removal of a stretch of highway, should probably be addressed if the city wants this momentum to continue.

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#43. Omaha, Nebraska

- Walk score: 46.8
- Population: 408,958

Residents of Omaha are about to begin benefitting from more walkability outside of just the most accessible neighborhoods of Old Market, Market West, and Park East. More and more residents are starting to go without a car, something that could increase bus traffic throughout the city. And developers are looking to revitalize formerly rundown areas like North 24th Street in northern Omaha.

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#42. Atlanta

- Walk score: 47.8
- Population: 420,003

Atlanta may have public transportation like the MARTA and buses, as well as a fair amount of bike lanes, but the city is still lacking in walkability. Residents on the whole can get to approximately five restaurants within a five-minute walk, but for those in the more walker-friendly neighborhoods of Georgia State University, Peachtree Center, and Buckhead Village, that number skyrockets to around 20 spots in five minutes.

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#41. Houston

- Walk score: 47.9
- Population: 2,099,451

In Neartown-Montrose, Midtown, and Greenway-Upper Kirby, residents may already enjoy the walkability perks of Houston. There are eight restaurants within a five-minute walk. The city council in Houston is in the process of enacting policy changes designed specifically to make the city denser and more walkable.

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Oleg Alexandrov // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Fremont, California

- Walk score: 48.3
- Population: 214,089

Fremont in September 2019 was named the second-best U.S. city for retirees. The weather is nice, crime is low, and if you live in Irvington, Centerville, or Sundale, you can do the majority of your errands on foot and also find plenty of restaurants nearby.

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#39. Madison, Wisconsin

- Walk score: 48.3
- Population: 233,209

Madison isn’t just a city with great walkable neighborhoods like Downtown (home of the Dane County Farmers Market, one of the biggest in the country), Greenbush, and State-Langdon; it also ranks as one of the top 10 cities in the U.S. to live in overall. It’s not a huge city, but it’s teeming with people walking everywhere thanks to the University of Wisconsin, ample supply of tech campuses, and affordable housing.

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#38. Paradise, Nevada

- Walk score: 48.4
- Population: 223,167

If you’ve been to what many consider to be downtown Las Vegas, you’ve been to Paradise; this town actually holds the infamous Las Vegas Strip—which is also one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Paradise, along with Paradise Palms and Silverado Ranch. You’ll likely still need a car, but the amount of nearby attractions in each of these neighborhoods pulls in new residents who want quick access to entertainment and food.

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#37. Spokane, Washington

- Walk score: 48.6
- Population: 208,916

Spokane developers in 2008 had a plan to revitalize the city, complete with a boost to public transportation and real estate investments. Now, three Spokane neighborhoods have blossomed into walkable destinations: Riverside, Emerson Garfield, and Cliff Cannon. And there’s a new plan to spread that walkability throughout downtown, one that will also tackle dangerous intersections for bikers and walkers.

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#36. San Jose, California

- Walk score: 49.0
- Population: 945,942

San Jose has been coming up with some big plans during the shelter-in-place orders resulting from coronavirus—at least five of them, in fact, to help revitalize the city. The goal is to make it more walkable, particularly in the Milpitas, Campbell, and Mountain View neighborhoods, while also increasing available green space for residents.

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#35. Tampa, Florida

- Walk score: 49.4
- Population: 335,709

Historically, Tampa has struggled with a lack of walkability, leading to high levels of pedestrian deaths. The Vision Zero plan aims to put that history behind the city, working to make more neighborhoods walkable in addition to the top three of Uptown Tampa, Courier City-Oscawana, and North Hyde Park.

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#34. Cincinnati

- Walk score: 49.8
- Population: 296,943

Some of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, like the walkable Over-the-Rhine, benefitted from a 2018 zoning exemption allowing them to become more walkable through the removal of required parking spots. Now, the city is paying more attention to keeping the pedestrians safe while taking advantage of that walkability with a plan that continually implements new street improvements.

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Bernard Gagnon // Wikimedia Commons

#33. San Diego

- Walk score: 51.3
- Population: 1,307,402

San Diego’s Gaslamp, Little Italy, and Harbor View neighborhoods are considered walkers’ paradises, thanks to all the amenities available within a short walk. City officials now want to bring that feeling to the Downtown neighborhood with a plan to implement six tree-lined promenades that allow for ample green and walking space while preparing for the population to rise.

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#32. Richmond, Virginia

- Walk score: 52.2
- Population: 204,214

Though it appears to be taking a long time, Richmond is working toward creating a more walkable city—mirroring its Monroe Ward, Jackson Ward, and Carytown neighborhoods—partially spurred on by coronavirus. Residents began biking and walking more once the pandemic hit, and Richmond officials have made it easy for people living there to request open-streets programs.

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#31. Detroit

- Walk score: 53.2
- Population: 713,777

Detroit’s most walkable neighborhoods are Downtown, University, and Central, and that’s not by accident. Since 2010, the city has made a massive effort to increase the amount of walkable spaces throughout the urban sprawl, adding more in 10 years than any other city in the country.

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#30. Anaheim, California

- Walk score: 54.8
- Population: 336,265

Forget Disneyland: If you want to see the real Anaheim, head to one of the city’s walkable neighborhoods like North Euclid, The Anaheim Resort (away from the parks), and The Colony. The Colony neighborhood was the city’s first historic district, and the city as a whole ranks as the top U.S. city for reducing stress—thanks in part to the walkability.

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#29. New Orleans

- Walk score: 58.9
- Population: 343,829

The French Quarter and adjacent neighborhoods Marigny and the Central Business District are the most compact in New Orleans and easily the most walkable. City officials are trying to build on that momentum with an arts initiative sponsoring murals that are walkable from one another.

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#28. Cleveland

- Walk score: 59.5
- Population: 396,815

The Downtown, Ohio City, and University neighborhoods in Cleveland benefit from being the most walkable, with plenty of restaurants and entertainment options nearby. The next neighborhood on that list? Possibly Detroit Shoreway, where city officials are piloting a program meant to design more walkable neighborhoods by changing zoning rules.

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#27. St. Paul, Minnesota

- Walk score: 59.8
- Population: 285,068

Not only is St. Paul a moderately walkable city, it’s also the greenest city in the United States. While people shirk personal cars for walking and public transportation (mostly in the Downtown, South Frogtown, and Capitol neighborhoods), they’re taking that environmentally friendly ethos into their homes, tossing out the least amount of waste per person in the country.

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#26. Denver

- Walk score: 61.0
- Population: 600,158

Partially thanks to a 2019 effort called Foot Traffic Ahead, Denver has steadily been rising in the ranks of walkable cities, particularly thanks to neighborhoods like Downtown, Capitol Hill, and Five Points, where food, entertainment, and public transportation are all nearby. According to developers in the city, the continued boost has a lot to do with ever-growing amounts of mixed-use projects.

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#25. Milwaukee

- Walk score: 62.7
- Population: 594,833

Thanks to newer infrastructure developments like The Hop (Milwaukee’s streetcar) and redone roads, Milwaukee has been able to attract more major events and people over the last year. Now, the city has installed new directional signs to point visitors to attractions—something that will bring more walkability to downtown in addition to the already highly walkable Juneau Town, Lower East Side, and Yankee Hill neighborhoods.

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#24. Pittsburgh

- Walk score: 62.9
- Population: 305,704

Pittsburgh’s walkable neighborhoods, like Downtown, Central Oakland, and Friendship, are only getting more popular—as evidenced by the 60% premium residents are paying in rent just to live in those areas. And the city ranks highest in the absorption rate of these walkable neighborhoods, meaning more people are signing leases in them than in any other city.

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#23. Honolulu

- Walk score: 64.6
- Population: 337,256

For Honolulu, becoming a more walkable city is a balancing act. In contrast with the idea of making more accessible areas, the city chose to remove 45 crosswalks. It was for a good cause, though—those crosswalks were dangerous for pedestrians and used less; removing them encourages use of safer ones, like those in the most walkable neighborhoods: Downtown, Ala Moana-Kakaako, and Mccully-Moiliili.

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#22. Baltimore

- Walk score: 64.8
- Population: 620,961

Though Baltimore has three very walkable neighborhoods with excellent public transportation availability in Downtown, Mount Vernon, and University of Maryland at Baltimore, the city overall struggles with mass transit. They’re trying to fix it, though. In January, Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey released a plan—which is more accurately described as a list of tips or ideas—to make the public transportation more safe and equitable around the city.

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#21. Rochester, New York

- Walk score: 64.9
- Population: 210,565

Outside the Pearl-Meigs-Monroe, Central Business District, and Swillburg neighborhoods, Rochester isn’t exactly designed for walkers, thanks to limited public transportation and bike lanes. The city is trying to change that, though, with developments like Charlotte Square on the Loop, part of an overall residential transformation project around the 1950s Inner Loop highway.

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#20. St. Louis

- Walk score: 65.5
- Population: 319,294

Thanks to green space, infrastructure and walkability (in part due to neighborhoods like Downtown, Benton Park West, and Soulard), St. Louis officially made the top 10 list of cities Curbed recommends moving to. Although the population appears to be decreasing, tech opportunities abound, more neighborhoods are consistently being revitalized, and home prices are relatively low.

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#19. Santa Ana, California

- Walk score: 66.3
- Population: 324,528

Santa Ana and its walkable neighborhoods—like Downtown, Willard, and Eastside—are that way for a very specific reason, Walk Score co-founder Matt Lerner said. Cities of that age are generally more walkable because the downtown areas developed before car traffic was the main way to get around.

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#18. Portland, Oregon

- Walk score: 66.6
- Population: 583,776

Just five years ago, Portland was suffering from a lack of walkability. But thanks to new neighborhoods and new apartment buildings in spots like Pearl, Old Town Chinatown, and Downtown, that’s a thing of the past. Now, there are entire walkable communities emerging in unexpected places—like a stairwell district underneath a bridge.

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#17. Buffalo, New York

- Walk score: 67.5
- Population: 261,310

Even though Buffalo ranks fairly high on this list, especially thanks to neighborhoods with high walkability scores like Allen, Grant Ferry, and the Central Business District, residents would still like to see more. Downtown, for example, presents an opportunity to do better by getting rid of excess parking lots and building more residential units.

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#16. Los Angeles

- Walk score: 68.2
- Population: 3,792,621

One of the major things that old-world cities have going for them are walkable pedestrian areas where cars aren’t allowed. And although Los Angeles has very walkable neighborhoods (like MacArthur Park, Central Hollywood, and Downtown) thanks to light rail and redevelopment, some residents are calling for more—asking for each of the city’s 15 districts to have a pedestrian-only zone.

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Ivan Curra // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Hialeah, Florida

- Walk score: 68.7
- Population: 224,669

Hialeah is not only one of the most walkable suburbs of Miami, it’s also one of the most affordable ones. Public transit is a little lacking, but neighborhoods Trojan Park, Semolina City, and Palmetto I-75 Industrial Center make up for it with quick foot access to restaurants and entertainment. And the city is continually trying to expand its walkability with new districts.

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#14. Arlington, Virginia

- Walk score: 69.2
- Population: 207,627

About 30 years ago, Arlington took the lead in suburban redevelopment in Virginia, creating walkable urban areas around the metro system. Now that momentum has pushed Arlington (and its most walkable neighborhoods of Clarendon-Courthouse, Ballston-Virginia Square, and Lyon Village) into the top walkable cities—something we can expect to continue when Amazon moves in.

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#13. Minneapolis

- Walk score: 70.5
- Population: 382,578

Thanks to a grant from the CDC last year, one Minneapolis woman took on a mission to expand walkability to neighborhoods outside the city’s most walkable ones of Lyn-Lake, Downtown West, and Lowry Hill East. While the central city area has plenty of public transportation and excellent capacity for bikes, other communities don’t have the necessary safety or access for those spaces. Walkable Community Workshops is hoping to change that with pilot programs.

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#12. Long Beach, California

- Walk score: 72.4
- Population: 462,257

One of the perks of Long Beach is that public transportation takes you right into Los Angeles—so if you want to live somewhere that’s outside the city but just as walkable, Long Beach is a good choice, particularly in the Franklin School, Saint Mary, and Downtown neighborhoods. Long Beach has remained on the most walkable city list since 2016, thanks to new developments and incentives for rehabilitating buildings.

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#11. Oakland, California

- Walk score: 73.8
- Population: 390,724

Oakland’s most walkable neighborhoods (Downtown, Koreatown-Northgate, and Temescal) enjoy ample public transportation and biking ability in addition to having a lot of food and entertainment options close at hand. Coronavirus has made it even more walkable for the long term, with newly designated "slow streets" giving everyone in the city the same access to popular spots.

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#10. Seattle

- Walk score: 74.0
- Population: 608,660

Thanks to a healthy activism for open public spaces and walkability, Seattle and its top three walkable neighborhoods of Downtown, International District, and Belltown continue to benefit from public transportation and spaces to bike. It can be tough, though; the city has a lot of hills and often inclement weather, which can make walking a slog.

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#9. Washington D.C.

- Walk score: 75.9
- Population: 601,723

Some analysts in Washington D.C., are concerned that the walkability of the city comes with too high a cost. Very walkable neighborhoods like U-Street, Dupont Circle, and Mount Vernon Square, come with a steep increase in cost of living, along with the increase in public transportation and accessible entertainment. As of 2016, only 2% of D.C. was truly walkable, and the concern is that as it spreads out, neighborhoods will be more gentrified.

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#8. Chicago

- Walk score: 77.4
- Population: 2,695,598

Even though most tourists flock to Chicago’s downtown, it ranks sixth among the city’s most walkable neighborhoods. For the top three, you have to go north and west, to East Ukrainian Village, Near North Side, and West Loop. But other neighborhoods are quickly gaining steam thanks to a new initiative by the city cataloging Chicago’s sidewalks and their deficiencies.

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#7. Miami

- Walk score: 77.6
- Population: 399,457

Miami and its most walkable neighborhoods—Downtown, Wynwood-Edgewater, and Little Havana—benefit from a mayor who really gets it. Every month, major roads are shut down and opened for just bikers and walkers. It makes sense, since walkability has always been a priority in the city.

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#6. Newark, New Jersey

- Walk score: 78.8
- Population: 277,140

In New Jersey’s large cities, only 18% of residents live within walking distance of where they need to go. Luckily, Newark is one of those cities with exceptional walkability—particularly in the Newark Central Business District, North Ironbound, and University Heights neighborhoods—because it’s an older city center where officials are constantly working on projects to increase foot traffic.

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#5. Philadelphia

- Walk score: 78.8
- Population: 1,526,006

Philadelphia was founded in 1682—long before cars were ever an option. Partly thanks to that and to public transportation, the city has continued to develop into a walkable paradise. The top-three walkable neighborhoods, Center City West, Rittenhouse Square, and Avenue of the Arts South, for example, score nearly 100 across the board for walkability, public transit, and biking ability.

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#4. Boston

- Walk score: 82.0
- Population: 617,594

Boston had the country’s first subway system—and the drive to make it a walkable city is obvious in close-knit neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, North End, and Bay Village. The downside that comes along with that, though, is higher costs. In very walkable areas in Boston, home prices increase by 29%—the highest amount in the country.

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#3. Jersey City, New Jersey

- Walk score: 86.8
- Population: 247,597

With excellent public transportation and bike infrastructure, it’s no wonder Jersey City has clinched a top spot on this list. In Historic Downtown, the most walkable neighborhood, residents can get to more than 20 restaurants and bars within a five-minute walk. In Journal Square, it’s 14—and you don’t need a car to run errands, either.

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#2. San Francisco

- Walk score: 87.4
- Population: 805,235

If you can afford it, living in San Francisco doesn’t even require a car thanks to the streetcar, BART, and multiple other public transportation options. The top two neighborhoods—Chinatown and Tenderloin—each rank 100% on the walkability scale, and a completely new low-carbon neighborhood also focuses on walking. Just be ready for some hills!

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#1. New York CIty

- Walk score: 88.3
- Population: 8,175,133

New York City and its three most walkable neighborhoods—Little Italy, Bowery, and Flatiron District—benefit from massive access to public transportation, where one stop is almost always just a few minutes’ walk away, whether it’s the subway, a bus, or another option. There’s also an ample supply of bike-shares and bike lanes. In fact, the city is so walkable that a lot of residents don’t have drivers licenses or cars.

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