Dodging countless tourists, iPod-carrying speed walkers, and the often-inclement Cambridge weather can make Harvard students dread the walk to 10 a.m. section. But even Quadlings have little to complain about, according to a recent study that named Cambridge America’s most pedestrian-friendly city.
The study, conducted by American Podiatric Medical Association and Prevention magazine, found that not only does the average Cambridge household have only 1.1 cars, but the city also boasts the largest percentage of pedestrian commuters in the nation.
“Walkability is the absolute test of the overriding social, psychological and physical health of a community,” said Dan E. Burden, founder and executive director of the non-profit Walkable Communities, Inc., and one of the experts involved in the study.
Not only do pedestrian-friendly cities improve quality of life, but they are also the most economically vibrant, Burden added.
Burden also praised the Cambridge city planners for what he called remarkable foresight in reducing the automobile dependency of residents.
History and Literature lecturer Michele C. Martinez said yesterday that both she and her husband walk 12 minutes to work, walk to Shaw’s for groceries, and walk with their toddler to public parks, often leaving their single car unused in the driveway.
Not only does this save money on rising gas prices, according to Martinez, but she said “raising a family in a walking city makes a profound difference.”
“Cambridge Commons has a wonderful toddler park, and the sidewalks and crossings make it easy to walk with a stroller,” she added.
Adams House Resident Dean Sharon L. Howell said that when she moved to Cambridge from the suburbs with two cars, she and her husband rarely used them.
“Inevitably, one of our cars would be towed, and we wouldn’t realize it for a week,” she said.
Howell also said that the number of parks within walking distance have made raising her two young children in Cambridge more enjoyable.
But Howell added that she is still wary of walking with her children because of the heavily trafficked streets and air pollution.
Despite the stigma attached to being “Quadded,” Spring Greeney ’09, a Pforzheimer House resident, said she enjoys her daily walks down Garden Street.
“One of the beauties of cities is that they bring different communities together,” she said. “It’s important that people are encouraged to walk and see the place where they live”.
The study was conducted by a panel of “walkability experts” who ranked the 10 largest cities in every state on a set of 14 criteria, including the percentage of residents who walk to work, the number of parks, and the relative safety of the city streets.