10 U.S. Cities Where You Don’t Need a Car

Walkable neighborhoods matter to the 8.4 percent of Americans who don't own a car and to those who want to minimize their carbon footprint. As daily personal car trips plummeted during the pandemic, safe and accessible walking, biking and mass transit routes became more important than ever.

Calculating the most walkable cities in the U.S.A.

This survey calculates each city's walk score, bike score and public transit score from Redfin, plus the percentage of the population that uses these modes of transportation to commute to work. Both the population counts and the counters of bikers, walkers and public transition commute are taken from the 2019 Census estimates in order to better reflect habits before a segment of the population began working from home regularly.

The percentage of transportation users were scaled and scored. Then these scores were summed and added to the totals from Redfin's walk, bike and public transit scores to produce the final score used for ranking the most walkable cities in the U.S.

1. New York, NY

New York City leads the pack with a total score of 286 — 34 points above its nearest competitor. That's the largest gap between the most walkable cities in the U.S.

New York City is an excellent city for cyclists. It earned a bike score of 86. But its high-density, walkable neighborhoods really set the city apart. Its stellar walk score of 99 is the best in the top 10 and the highest in the nation.

New York was also the only community in the country to earn a perfect 100 transit score. Over a quarter (26.89 percent) of New York City's 8.3 million residents use transit to commute to work. That's the highest percentage and total number of users (over 2 million) anywhere in the U.S.

2. San Francisco, CA

The steep and scenic hills of San Francisco don't slow pedestrians down. The City by the Bay is home to the second highest number of residents who commute on foot (7.7 percent) and by bike (2.29 percent) in the Top 10.

San Francisco is a walker's paradise. Its excellent walk score of 93 means that locals can easily run all their daily errands without a car. Biking is convenient for most trips in many neighborhoods, too.

An excellent transit system, which includes the city's famous cable cars (which are also National Historic landmarks) helps pedestrians fill in the gaps. Just over 21 percent of commuters use transit, the third highest usage rate in the top 10.

3. Boston, MA

More Boston residents (9.71 percent) commute on foot than in any of the most walkable cities in the U.S. The city was founded centuries before cars were invented, so it retains its human scale and beautiful, historic neighborhoods. This accessibility (and an excellent walk score of 89) mean that locals don't need a car to accomplish most of their day-to-day tasks.

A biking score in the high 70s means that cycling is convenient for most trips. A transit score in the same range indicates there's a transit station near most destinations. Transit ridership is high at 18.52 percent.

4. Chicago, IL

Chicago has a very strong walkability score (84) and a plethora of unique neighborhoods to explore. At 80, the city's bike score is higher than almost every other community in the top 10. (Only New York City and Portland, OR, serve cyclists better.)

But only 0.75 percent of Chicago residents actually bike to work. That's similar to the 0.65 percent of bike commuters in New York, indicating that access doesn't always equal high usage. Low biking numbers and low walking numbers (3.34 percent) pulled the city's overall rating down to 237.

A substantial number of Chicagoans (14.29 percent) do ride mass transit, however. This is the second largest city in this top 10, with a population of 2.7 million, so that ridership percentage adds up. The city's transit system earned a score of 73.

5. Seattle, WA

In contrast, Seattle's transit (71) and biking (75) ratings are a bit lower. But usage is higher than in Chicago. A slightly larger number (15.39 percent) of Seattle residents use mass transit to get to work, while 2.27 percent of people commute by bike. That's the third-highest number in the Top 10, just behind San Francisco and New York.

Seattle has a strong walk score of 86. Walkable neighborhoods help encourage 6.56 percent of residents to commute and run errands on foot.

most walkable cities usa

6. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is often called a city of neighborhoods. It's a historic city built for foot traffic, not for cars, so it's no surprise to learn that the City of Brotherly Love received an excellent walk score of 84.

That doesn't mean that residents regularly walk to work, though. In fact, only 3.84 percent do. Even fewer (0.94 percent) take their bikes. Another 11.47 percent use mass transit.

Mass transit earned a ranking of 68, the first time a system has dropped below 70 so far in this survey. But that's still defined as a “good" rating. And there are many options for commuters to choose from.

7. Jersey City, NJ

Its proximity to New York City has made Jersey City popular with renters. But this vibrant, multi-cultural city along the Hudson River is a destination in its own right.

Jersey City is rated as bikeable; a score of 67 means there's basic biking infrastructure present. And it's very walkable, with an excellent 89 walk score.

But most people (26.77 percent) who don't have a car in Jersey City get to work using mass transit. That's second only to New York City, just across the Hudson. (In fact, many residents work in the city.) And the transit system is rated as excellent, with a transit score of 72.

8. Washington, DC

Washington, D.C., residents are also likely to use mass transit. Residents of the nation's capital logged the fourth highest transit usage in this survey at 18.67 percent. The transit system earned a “good" rating of 69 percent, which means there are many public transportation options.

Locals are also likely to walk to work; 7.34 percent choose this option. The city's 83 walk score means that the city is very walkable. Most errands in many neighborhoods can be accomplished entirely on foot.

9. Portland, OR

Portland is a city for cyclists. More people (2.91 percent) in this low-key city in the Pacific Northwest bike to work than anywhere in the top 10. A bike score of 85 is second only to New York City. It means that the city is very bikeable, even as you go deeper into residential neighborhoods.

Transit is ranked as good and the city is very walkable. So residents can check out Portland's best brunch spots and dive bars without worrying about drinking and driving.

most walkable us cities

10. Oakland, CA

Oakland comes in just behind Portland with a combined score of 220. This is despite Oakland having a higher walk score (83) and a higher transit score (63) than Portland.

Usage patterns account for the slightly lower ranking. Fewer than 2 percent of Oakland residents walk or bike to work, even though the city is ranked as very walkable and bikeable and most errands can be accomplished without a car. A much larger percentage of people use mass transit in Oakland (13.46 percent) than in Portland (7.5 percent).

A car isn't necessary in the 10 most walkable cities in the U.S.A. High walk scores and strong bike and transit rankings mean that these cities are easy for residents and visitors to explore.

Alicia Underlee Nelson Alicia Underlee Nelson is a freelance writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Thomson Reuters, Food Network, USA Today, Delta Sky Magazine, AAA Living, Midwest Living, Beer Advocate, trivago Magazine, Matador Network, craftbeer.com and numerous other publications. She’s the author of North Dakota Beer: A Heady History, co-host of the Travel Tomorrow podcast and leads travel and creativity workshops across the Midwest.

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