in Houston, Texas
Tendency toward walking correlates with liberal views? Texas cities score low on ‘walkability’
Thursday, Apr 19, 2012, 10:59AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

The chasm in our nation’s political divide widened considerably with the discovery of America’s latest crisis: the crisis in American walking.

And as you might imagine, Texas, where walks take place exclusively between air-conditioned buildings and air-conditioned pickup trucks, is in whatever you’re in when you’ve moved well beyond crisis.

It wasn’t that Slate devoted four parts to proving the problem is not in the least pedestrian. It is the startling revelation today that prompts the website to ask “Why Don’t Conservative Cities Walk?

The evidence is there for all to see. New York, San Francisco and Boston, all liberal bastions, the three most walkable cities in America. The top 19 cities all in states that went for President Obama in 2008.

Houston, the top-rated Texas city, comes in at 23. Dallas follows at 30, Arlington at 37, San Antonio 40th, El Paso 44th and Fort Worth 47th.

But that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. The top five cities received walkability scores of 74 or more, with New York at 85.3. Houston mustered a lounging on a park bench 49.8.

Laredo, famous for a song all bound up in walking down its streets, got a 32.7. Killeen, which may have been designed to keep enlisted people from walking away from its military bases, got a 28.9.

Puffed up with pride, with Texas in our name, we took a little closer look at the findings. Is walking really one-tenth of a point better in Detroit than in Houston? Could a stroll through Newark (74) be 30 points more satisfying than through El Paso?

The analysis - and we’re using this term while slowly withdrawing our tongues from our cheeks - suggests that because Houston is becoming more diverse and more liberal, walkability will follow.

This might be news to Houstonians, who have had no end of trouble with their mass transit system, Metro, another important walkability measure.

And get ready, Austin, for a blow to your reputation as the weird, perambulating blue dot in a brackish sea of red. Your walking score of 46.7 puts you 31st on the list, one slot behind that shining capital of Texas conservatism, Dallas.

Maybe if you just spent more on your MetroRail system.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of a sidewalk and storefront in the Heights neighborhood of Houston by flickr user Beau B, used via a Creative Commons license.

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