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Walking Takes America by Storm

by Jay Walljasper - July 7, 2008

You can no longer think of walking as a pedestrian topic. It's now got legs, as we say in the journalism biz.

This year newspapers, newscasts, magazines and websites are bursting with stories about how important walking is to our health, our environment, our satisfaction with life and the vitality of our communities.

Alan Ehrenhalt, one of the savviest observers of American society today, heralds "The Walkability Revival" in his Governing magazine column. "It's not just New Urbanists who are talking the language of walkability now," he writes. "It's developers, Realtors, chambers of commerce, transportation agencies."

Christopher B. Leinberger, director of the graduate real estate program at the University of Michigan and author of The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream, earned wide attention for his ranking of America's most walkable urban places:

Leinberger's extensive research, conducted over three decades as a real estate consultant and developer, identifies 157 prime walkable areas in both cities and suburbs of America's 30 metropolitan regions--a number that has increased significantly in recent years, he says.

Prevention magazine ranked the ten most populous cities in each state for walkability, and then compiled its own list of the best 100. Here are the top ten.

Like statistics on the sports page, it's fun to debate the fine points of these rankings. Leinberger focuses more on the overall metropolitan region with particular emphasis on great walking places such as downtowns, while Prevention looks at the walking experience throughout a city taking in account factors including green space, safety and the percentage of people who walk to work and walk for exercise.

But the good news in all this media coverage is that people everywhere are rediscovering one of life's most underrated pleasures--taking a stroll.