The 5 Cities Where It’s Easiest — and Hardest — to Walk to the Grocery Store

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New York came in at the top of Walk Score’s ranking of cities where people can walk to buy groceries. Image: Walk Score

Walk Score has put together a new ranking of the best and worst American cities for walkable access to food. The above visualization contrasts New York, city with the best access, and Indianapolis, which brought up the rear in Walk Score’s ratings.

Walk Score used its algorithm to cross-reference millions of walking routes with its database of grocery store locations. Then it ranked cities with populations over 500,000 according to the share of residents who can walk to a grocery store in five minutes. Here are the top five:

1 New York 72%
2 San Francisco 59%
3 Philadelphia 57%
4 Boston 45%
5 Washington D.C. 41%

Walk Score also ranked the places where the lowest share of residents can walk to a grocery store in five minutes:

1 Indianapolis 5%
2 Oklahoma City 5%
3 Charlotte 6%
4 Tucson 6%
5 Albuquerque 7%

Cities including San Jose, California, are using tools from Walk Score to examine and address local food access issues. Walk Score says it welcomes inquiries from planners who would like to see the results of their city.

  • Bolwerk

    I’d be curious to see what that would look like for grocery stores that at least provide healthy, balanced diets. NYC has its fair share of “food deserts” (which itself is a misleading term, since they have food that just happens to be unhealthy).

  • jacobus

    Don’t worry, the City of Tucson won’t rest until 0% of its residents can walk to a grocery store (or anywhere else, for that matter).

  • Guest

    What was the criteria in determining what equated to “walkable access to food”? Was it limited to grocery store/markets or were any establishments that sold food (i.e. restaurants, fast-food establishments, gas stations) also included. It is a bit confusing since you mention “grocery store” in your title yet speak of access to “food” in the content section. Thanks.

  • Thomas R Shrout Jr

    How would a ten minute threshold change the rankings? I am 7 minutes away here in St. Louis and I think that is great.

  • Bajsa

    I have at least eight grocery stores within a ten minute walk, the closest being in the same building. But I don’t live in the U.S. anymore, I live in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • My dad looked for a house in walking distance from a grocery store in Columbus, Ohio for years. Then he gave up.

  • Fascinating information. Thanks for posting!

  • Check out the links in the article to the cities to answer some questions. You can set the walking time to 5 to 20 minutes. I looked at San Francisco’s and set it at a ten minute walk. Pretty much all of San Francisco is within a 10 minute walk of “groceries.” Now what does “groceries” mean? By Walk Choice’s definition, San Francisco has 664 grocery stores. This means they are definitely not counting every store that sells liquor and candy.

    However, in my neighborhood they do seem to be picking up corner grocery stores that sell milk, cheese, canned goods and at least a small selection of fruit and vegetables (as well as liquor and candy.) They are also counting a gourmet olive oil shop and the Noe Valley and Castro Farmer’s Markets (that operate only one day a week.) They are reliably counting all the produce-only stores, but they don’t seem to be picking up the delicatessen near me that has prepared pasta and sauces as well as canned and dry goods, or the great cheese shop on 24th street. They don’t include Walgreens, which has made a halfhearted attempt to carry some grocery items lately, they don’t include the nasty 7/11 on 18th Street, and they don’t include any gas station/handimart type places in the Mission. So I would guess they both undercount and overcount what I would define as “groceries.”

  • buckguy

    In DC, there are a couple swaths of the city where a good grocery isn’t walkable. Oddly, some are very poor but some are quite middle class but lost groceries as chains went to larger stores.

    Having lived near Indianapolis, i can’t imagine why anyone would want to live there, let a lone walk any place there. It’s the kind of place that makes even a dull uninteresting place like Columbus, Ohio seem like Paris. Back in the 80s it struck me as having more porn shops and fundie/evangelical churches often nearly adjacent) than any other city of any size. Albuquerque struck me as a place where no one would want to walk period most of the year because of the heat.

  • Boots

    I grew up in Oklahoma City and it is kind of my base–my parents live here–whenever I come back from working/studying abroad. I spent a few days in Indianapolis, and I have to say, it’s significantly nicer than Oklahoma City. There were some segregated bike lanes, traffic calming monuments and plazas (plazas in the original sense, not as a euphemism for parking lots), and in general the downtown and nearby neighborhoods felt a lot nicer. Oklahoma City is 30-50 years behind the cities on the vanguard of transportation. Only downtown and the city’s first neighborhood have sidewalks. Even major intersections have no crosswalks or curb cuts, and the closest thing to a bike lane is a strip of paint forcing cyclists to ride in the the broken glass, nails and gravel forced to the right-most margin of the road by automobiles. There are safe ways to get around by bike, but large swaths of the city are downright dangerous to get by on foot or by bike. The buses run once an hour, stop at 6:30, have even more limited schedules on Saturday, and don’t run on Sunday. Despite all of this, our mayor is one of the world’s top greenwashers–he even spoke at TED about how OKC is re-inventing itself. B.S. the “bike routes” are either around lakes or parks or consist of painted stripes on calm streets that didn’t need them to begin with. The downtown has seen some infrastructure improvement but still sandwiches bikes between parked cars and 35MPH traffic. Alas, the Thunder came to town and the mayor thought it was necessary to improve downtown infrastructure to impress all the people from out-of-state who walked the 10 blocks near the stadium that actually resemble a city. Other than that, nothing that comes close to being transformative is going on in OKC. A few new hipster-ish bars and cafés don’t make a city..absolute failure in leadership and general vision.

    But hey, we have our first open streets this Sunday! I’m volunteering, but the realistic side of me thinks there will be more people protesting the 1-mile closing of 23rd street than actual participants in the event. We shall see! Long story short–don’t believe any of the hype you might read/hear from outlets such as NYT or TED..superficial BS.

  • John C Miklos

    I’m with you, Mr. Shrout. I also think the 5 minute/quarter-mile walk expectation is absurdly low.

  • Alan

    I think 5 minutes is a pretty high bar unless you count corner stores. I have about 4 real large grocery stores within a 10 minute walk from me or so plus a number of little bodegas and such within a few blocks.

  • Alan

    Yeah I have about 4 within 10 minutes but nothing but corner stores within 5.

  • dk12

    What’s up with the map for Boston? the big areas that aren’t covered are: the airport, the harbor islands, and large swaths of parkland. I didn’t realize over half the city’s population lives in these places. I’m also looking at one area of red in my neighborhood and I know for a fact there are 3 grocery stores right there – two small local “convenience” markets that have fruit and veggies, and one large organic food co-op.

  • dk12

    and once you change the sliders to 10 minutes – all the top cities start looking pretty similar.

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