Cleveland Plain Dealer - 2013

LAKEWOOD, Ohio – Lakewood is the most walkable of the state’s 114 largest cities by population, according to a ranking released by the Walk Score website. Lakewood finished first in the state, with a score of 64 out of 100, which Walk Score described as “somewhat walkable.” Scores can also be broken down by neighborhood. A section of Detroit Avenue in Downtown Lakewood received a score of 82, which is considered “very walkable,” according to the website. The average score for an Ohio city was 32, according to Walk Score. The Seattle-based company ranked about 2,500 cities and 10,500 neighborhoods based on how convenient it is for pedestrians to reach restaurants, stores, entertainment, schools and parks and access public transportation. Neighboring Cleveland ranked fourth on the list of large Ohio cities with a score of 57. However, some individual Cleveland neighborhoods, including downtown, received significantly higher scores. “As a practical matter, it’s not important to Lakewood that we’re more walkable than anybody else,” Mayor Michael Summers said. “What’s important is that we are walkable.”  "By walking, residents can not only improve their health, but reduce pollution and fuel consumption, and support local businesses," Summers commented. Summers’ comments echoed those of Walk Score CEO Josh Herst. “Being able to walk out your door and be at your destination, whether that be your job, school, park, grocery store or restaurant, is great for your wallet, health and quality of life,” Herst said. Lakewood received a relatively high walkability score in part because of its history. "The city was laid out in the early 1900s when people didn’t have cars and didn’t need them because they could walk down the street and hop on a streetcar," Summers said. However, the city has built on its roots by attracting stores and restaurants to the downtown area. “Over the past decade or so, we’ve been able to foster a very vibrant downtown, which creates destinations worth walking to,” Summers said, “One of the goals was to create enough commercial activity that all of your routine amenities of life could be taken care of here, whether it is going to the post office, getting your hair cut, getting the sundries of life, like bread and milk and eggs.” A citizens group, Live Well Lakewood, is encouraging residents to walk. However, Summers said he would like to see more residents leave their cars parked to visit local businesses. “The millennial generation between the ages of 20 and 35, they do it instinctively,”  Summers said, “We have to follow their lead.” Following Lakewood on the list of most walkable Ohio cities was Norwood, in Hamilton County, and Athens. Walk Score describes its mission as promoting walkable neighborhoods. The Walk Score advisory board includes urban planning, environmental and technical experts from institutions including the Brookings Institution.

Guess What Cleveland Suburb is the Walk-To-School Capital of the U.S.A.?

Most Northeast Ohio residents don’t realize that one Cleveland suburb has the highest population density of any place between Chicago and New York City . . . and that same city is also considered the unofficial “walk-to-school capital” of the United States because it doesn’t have any school buses at all. That’s right: Lakewood, Ohio has never, ever had any school buses. Every student in the entire city walks to school or is driven by a family member—and they always have. In an article on the website, they make a few guesses as to why Lakewood has become the walk-to-school capital: “Density, for one. The town was incorporated in 1910 as an inner-ring streetcar suburb of Cleveland. Lakewood grew up with walkable, densely populated neighborhoods. Today the city of 52,000 has 9,000 residents per square mile, which, according to city planner Bryce Sylvester, makes it the most densely populated place between Chicago and New York City.” Instead of setting up a busing system as the community grew, Lakewood focused on creating schools that “fit” within the city. Many of Lakewood’s schools exist on smaller lots of land and consist of multi-story buildings, which means they fit better into residential neighborhoods. Because of these reasons, pretty much everyone in Lakewood walks to school.