A Canadian academic, writing this weekend in the Wall Street Journal, names Evanston one of the 10 “most successful walkable suburbs in the U.S.”

A Canadian academic, writing this weekend in the Wall Street Journal, names Evanston one of the 10 “most successful walkable suburbs in the U.S.”

Richard Florida, of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, based his list on education levels, per capita income and travel time to work.

Bethesda, Md., ranked first on the list. Evanston came in fourth, beating out our neighbors to the north in Lake Forest, which ranked ninth and the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Wash., which came in 10th.

Florida’s story in the Journal focuses on efforts “edge city” suburbs — generally farther from the central city and more dependent on the automobile — are undertaking to re-invent themselves to become more walkable, as the appeal of a car-focused culture diminishes.

Florida is also the author of the book “The Rise of the Creative Class” — which coined the term that’s become a buzzword for Evanston leaders seeking ways to bring more economic development to the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. He’s obviously never tried actually walking here

    has he?

    Bicycles on sidewalks in downtown, and almost everywhere else. Oblivious texters not watching where they’re going. Loud cell phone yappers.  Sidewalk cafes blocking half to three quarters of the available [walking] space. Construction sites blocking the walks. No, I don’t think he’s been walking there.

    Then there’s the border bike and walking paths; bikes racing past pedestrians, more oblivious texting pedestrians wandering, seemingly aimlessly, and forcing others off the path and into the dog poo that hasn’t been cleaned up. Begging cup-shakers along the lakefront, especially south of downtown. The lakefront tent city (look hard, it’s there).  NU Gestapo checking IDs on some going through "their" lakefront walking paths.  Nope, he hasn’t been walking there either.

    Do we even need to discuss the issues with kids trying to walk to school? Attempted abductions, missing crossing guards (or has that one been replaced?), trying to get through a block of drug dealers (ok- temporarily solved but in process of  replacement & relocation),  and the kids themselves: the worst offenders of being oblivious to their surroundings.

    I’ll give him that education levels are high. Travel times for work are mostly reasonable- for those lucky enough to even HAVE a job. But with unemployment still at almost record levels and a good part of the population living on the fringe, realistic income levels are probably half of what he thinks they are.

    Maybe he just put up an online (non-scientific) poll with poor choices, but he’s certainly never set foot on any of the same walkways my friends or I have.


    1. my Charon-ah

      While many of your complaints may be true in small measure, by and large they ring hollow. I am lucky to live in West/Central Evanston and walk downtown, to Crown, the lakefront, south to Oakton, over to Evanston Plaza, basically a good chunk of the city and have rarely, I repeat Charon, rarely  been inconvenienced by any of these hallucinatory situations you ramble on about.

      Sounds like you’ve been influenced by the complainer clique that roams this site.

      Evanston is a very nice walk. And by the number of people walking about I would guess I’m not the only one who thinks so.


    2. Oh, Evanston’s a great place for walking.

      You’re probably right that the author never walked here, but I’ll bet if he did, it would only confirm his ranking.

      I’ve only lived here for 35 years, but I’ve never been disappointed while taking numerous walks throughout the city.

      Many of the distractions you mentioned…the bicyclists, the dog-walkers, the kids walking home from school…only serve to add interest to each walk. My favorite is the woman who walks daily in my neighborhood while reading a book!  Evanston’s walkability is enhanced by its vitality, its diversity, its beautiful homes, and gorgeous gardens.

      Northwestern University always welcomes the community to walk throughout its beautiful campus, and even allows free parking in its parking lots after 4 p.m. and on weekends. One of my favorite walks is along the Northwestern landfill, teeming with activity, including people flying kites in the lake breeze.

      Yes, Evanston certainly lives up to its Top Ten ranking on walkability.

    3. Checking IDs

        NU Gestapo checking IDs on some going through "their" lakefront walking paths. 


      Has this really happened to anyone?  I have never been asked to produce my WIldcard when walking along the lakefront path.  Where were you walking?

    4. You must have missed something else to complain about

      Goodness, I hope you don’t get out much– it must be a very anxiety-producing experience.

      You seem to imply that cell phone yappers, texters, bikers, etc., are unique to Evanston and that other communities don’t have these problems.  Check out these other towns and let me know. 

      I personally have passed through the Northwestern campus probably five days/week (running or walking) for the past 20 years and I have never once been asked by ‘NU Gestapo’ to show any ID.  I do know that NU has banned some people from campus because they have committed crimes, loitered or engaged in other undesirable behavior; it is their property and they can tell anyone who they want to leave the area if they choose.  But to suggest that NU Police randomly ask people for their IDs without cause because it is "their" lakefront is, in a word, ludicrous. 

      1. NU Police do stop people

          A friend [white] who is a 60’s [in his 70s] Kellogg grad, was wearing a Kellogg jacket and cap and is about as innocent looking as anyone could be has been stopped on campus several times walking between Kellogg [his wife worked there] and the library [where he reads the foreign newspapers] at 4PM on a week day.

           I suspect I would have been stopped except they must recognize me from all the lost keys [including dorm and academic], wallets, and other things I’ve found and turned over to them and doors/windows that were suppose to be closed/locked I reported.

           i don’t know how serious they are when stopping people, maybe  it is just like liquor stores that card anyone under 40..

          There are periodically reports by black students being stopped [one twice in one day].

  2. walkability is multi-faceted

    The 2007 study by Leinberger did not rank the suburbs, it ranked metro areas, ranking Chicago 7th out of 30 studied, and included Evanston (along with Lake Forest, Winnetka, and Elgin) as suburbs in that metro area. The recent Wall Street Journal article in turn appears to have simply taken those "walkable" suburbs and then ranked them by educational level, per capita income, and travel time to work. As a 150-year-old university town where the cost of living is high, situated on two rail lines, Evanston does nicely.

    "Walkability" studies will typically reward older, denser, grid-pattern, inner-ring suburbs with multiple smaller, nearby business districts (as opposed to one central downtown or mall). They usually don’t take into consideration the degree to which walking is interrupted by traffic, stoplights, sidewalk cafes, signs, or the volume of other pedestrians (or bicycles, which shouldn’t be competing for the same space as pedestrians). They tend to look at number of amenities within walking distance, recognizing that having e.g., parks and libraries in neighborhoods makes a neighborhood more walkable, correlating with higher property value, which benefits an entire community’s tax base.

    The Leinberger study laudably distinguishes between 5 different types of "walkable" communities. This is an important distinction because what applies to a sprouting greenfield or failed strip-mall-stype suburb is not necessarily the same strategy as for an older suburb. Evanston falls into the category of what Leinberger calls "Suburban Town Center—18th or 19th century towns that have been swept up in the growth of the metropolitan area but were laid out before the advent of the car."

    1. They must have covered select areas

      They must not have walked around the area from roughly Sherman and Oakton eastward, esp. south of the Skokie CTA nor the area from Oakton to McCormick and Asbury west.  Esp. at night.  And ignored the crime reports for certain areas and spill-over to places of ‘crime of opportunity’ which means everyone needs to be careful where they walk after dark esp. if walking alone.  Face it much of Evanston at least to south of McCormick is a continuation of Chicago—very mixed. 

      [I know there are nice houses within these boundaries but Evanston tends to have very sharp boundaries with good and bad very near].

      1. Oh Please, Racist Much?

         As someone who has walked or biked nearly every street in Evanston, these kinds of "boundary lines" are meaningless.  I live south of Oakton and west of Ridge and walk my neighborhood daily.  I walk south and greet my neighbors, and even (gasp) southeast to shop at the terrific Dominicks on Clark.

        We walk SW to Target, and greet our neighbors and enjoy lovely James Park.  We ride bikes through the very pretty parks on the east side of the canal (west of Dodge!) and meet walking neighbors throughout, amidst the picnic tables and playgrounds.

        Evanston is a very walkable city (except for the few streets that have no sidewalks) which you might find if you ever got out of the car.   When you explain that some areas are more "dangerous" than others, who exactly are you talking about?  The people who live on those streets, send their children to neighborhood schools, pay property taxes and participate in neighborhood associations.  How nice to know that some of those who live north of certain streets are afraid to even walk west of Sheman and south of Oakton, where many more Evanston residents live than north and on the lakefront. ] Perhaps we should get you a Dobson/Brummel block party invite that will change your mind.

  3. Poop is OK, smoking is not

    I heartily second your comments, Charon, with the exception of the dog poop, which really doesn’t seem like much of a problem in Evanston. But I would add middle-school skateboarders in congested downtown areas – not merely using their boards for transportation, but for hanging out and practicing their moves in the middle of crowds. Also vagrants sleeping in Fountain Square (often amidst the aforementioned skateboarders). And the sloppily installed brick sidewalks that prompt plunging and tripping. Also the trees growing out of the sidewalk, taking up what little walking space is left beyond the sidewalk cafes. And the Green Peacers, childhood hunger combatants, Save Lake Michigan advocates, animal rights people – all those accosting downtown pedestrians day after day after day. And above all, the SMOKING. For such an educated population, Evanston is thronged with oblivious smokers. Who are also flagrant litterers.

  4. Lake Forest

    The fact that Lake Forest made this list makes me question the data entirely. Having lived there for 10 years I’m trying to figure out where the walkable part is. Obviously Evanston is a very walkable city but wow…why not add Long Grove to the list too?

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