Many are satisfied with walkability in their neighborhood, even though Charlotte scores poorly overall

Birkdale Village
Birkdale Village

The Urban Land Institute’s Charlotte chapter just released a new survey of how satisfied Charlotteans are with living here, and one quirk jumped out: Many people say they’re satisfied with how walkable their neighborhoods are, but the city doesn’t score well overall on ratings of pedestrian-friendliness.

In fact, “walkability” came in as the second-most popular neighborhood feature that survey respondents said they were satisfied with, just behind “safe neighborhood.” That’s a bit of a puzzle, considering the city as a whole has a walkability score of 26 out of 100.

That puts the city at 50th most walkable, and leaves Charlotte in the “car dependent” category of national rankings. So, what’s going on here? Here are three possibilities:

▪ People might define walkability differently. “I find my neighborhood very walkable for walking my dog, but I don’t have a lot of amenities to walk to,” said Diane Gavarkavich, director of research services at UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute. So, survey respondents might think their neighborhood is walkable, even if it doesn’t fit the textbook definitions national rankings use.

▪ The survey wasn’t a random, representative sample, but instead relied on people who chose to respond online. So the respondents skewed more affluent than Charlotte as a whole. Since Charlotte walkability scores vary a lot by neighborhood, more of the respondents might have come from relatively affluent areas close to uptown that tend to be more walkable, such as Dilworth and Plaza Midwood.

▪ People might say they’re satisfied with how walkable their neighborhood is even if they don’t walk a lot. For example, as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools official pointed out, parents generally say they want to live near a school where their kids could walk – but a large proportion of parents choose to drive their kids to school anyway.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo