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Old 04-12-2012, 08:28 AM
Location: Virginia
18,717 posts, read 30,764,455 times
Reputation: 42986
Let me start by saying I like both Pittsburgh and northern VA, as those of you who are regulars on city-data know. I have no intention of dissing Pittsburgh, but I'm also a person who does a lot of walking, and has had plenty of opportunity to test out both metro areas for walkability. I disagree with SCR's conclusions. (Which is cool--different strokes for different folks, as they say.)

Instead of arguing, let's look at photos and then everyone can draw their own conclusion. As it happens, SCR also wrote a post last night with a photo of a walkable Pittsburgh neighborhood that he finds particularly attractive, so let's use his post to compare and contrast against photos of Leesburg and Reston Town Center (the two Nova areas he mentioned).

I leave it up to each reader to decide which sidewalks he would rather walk on. And remember, in the end it comes down to personal preference (especially since we are comparing an outer suburb to an inner city; talk about apples and oranges--a better comparison would be Pittsburgh to Old Town Alexandria).

Let's start with Pittsburgh. Here's is the photo from SCR's post from last night.:

It's a pretty view, but regarding walkability please note:

--The width of the sidewalk and lack of treelawn. Could you push a stroller on that? Would you want to walk with a stroller, and a 3 year old, while cars were zooming by? Cars pass within inches of pedestrians.

--The broken sidewalks. Fine for someone in the 20s, not great for someone pushing a stroller or a shopping cart.

-- The random traffic cone. You also see chairs marking parking spaces. At times you have to walk around these items when they're pushed onto the sidewalk by angry people who park in the spot anyway.

-- The garbage bags. Personally I don't like walking on a street with litter, and garbage bags left in the street like that can attract rodents. Also, if you're walking a dog where does he relieve himself. You don't see the pet waste disposal stations that we have in the Nova burbs (at least I never did. What I did see.... well you can imagine. Not that I saw it all the time but I saw it enough that it stuck in my memory.)

--Imagine this street after a heavy snowfall. Where will the snow plow push the snow?

Now, here are some photos of Reston Town Center. Photos of Leesburg are below, where I discuss the "gap teeth" remark. (broken link)
These homes, as well as several hundred others, are part of the RTC complex. You can literally live work and play there without having to walk more than a few blocks. Grocery stores and stores like Home Depot and Best Buy are also just a few blocks away, as is a libary and a hospital. It doesn't get much more walkable than Reston Town Center, IMO. But, to each his own. (broken link)
Or, you can live here and have restaurants and shops without even crossing the street. (broken link)
Gee, what an unwalkable area Reston Town Center is..... (broken link)
Could these ladies push these strollers in the photo in SCR's post? Walkability means a street has to be walkable for all people, IMO. Including moms with strollers. (broken link)
This photo and the one below show the front and back of some homes at Reston Town Center. The front has a sidewalk, the back has a bike path (W&OD) and a parallel walking trail. These homes are two blocks from the center of RTC, so, again, definitely walkable to shops, restaurants, ice skating, hospital, etc. (broken link)

Instead of writing a book, I'll just post a few more photos. Draw your own conclusions. In the photos of Reston Town Center below, note the greenery, the width of the sidewalks, the benches, the lights, trashcans, and landscaping designed to make walking pleasurable. (broken link) (broken link) (broken link) (broken link)

To each his own, as they say, but I personally am more comfortable walking in northern VA.

Originally Posted by SteelCityRising View Post
it has a lot of suburban-styled buildings, parking lots, and "gap teeth", all of which make it not very walkable in my book
I'm not quite sure what "gap teeth" means here. In Pittsburgh the term refers to row houses where one or more of the units has been torn down, leaving a vacant lot and a rather odd appearance since the buildings on either side do not have side windows and obviously were once part of a set of row houses. Suburban homes have gaps, I guess--we call them side yards. I like the fact that our houses have windows on all sides, letting in plenty of light and air. But, to each his own.

These would be "gap teeth" streets in Leesburg:

Also worth noting is whether or not people actually do walk to work. as most of you know, I'm an example of a person in northern VA who walks to work and frequently picks up groceries or something from Rite Aid on my way home. SCR, on the other hand, drives to work. And he has frequently complained that the stores in his neighborhood are not terribly useful. He has a comic book store, a music store and some bars and coffee shops--fun places but not terribly practical. He has complained that he needs to drive for laundromat, groceries, Chick Fil-A, and other such needs.

OTOH I'll agree that if you want to run down to get a cup of coffee, you're more likely to walk a shorter distance in SCR's neighborhood in Pittsburgh than if you live in Reston Town Center or downtown Leesburg. You may have to walk a block or two in RTC/Leesburg. Maybe even 3-4 blocks. In my neighborhood I have to walk about a 1/2 mile to get to a coffee shop. Of course, once I get there I have a choice between several places in the particular shopping plaza I go to, but I do have to walk a bit to get there. Fortunately, my walk is along this attractive and comfrotable route, so it seems very pleasant and walkable to me

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