Is Rockville Walkable? Depends Where You Are.

Walk Score map of Rockville

“Walkability” is an increasingly popular measure of a community’s quality of life.  By enhancing the convenience and ease of walking, it reduces traffic, improves health, increases community involvement, and puts more eyes on the street for safety.  So how does Rockville rate?  Walk Score calculates walkability on a block-by-block basis, generating color-coded maps.  In the map of Rockville, green indicates the areas that are most walkable (such as downtown) and red the least walkable (such as Horizon Hill west of 270).  Around town, they’ve calculated how the following locations fared on a scale of 1-100:

  • 85 Very walkable:  Maryland Avenue and South Adams (West End)
  • 75 Very walkable:  Baltimore Road and Grandin (East Rockville)
  • 66 Somewhat walkable:  Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill (Twinbrook)
  • 65 Somewhat walkable:  Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Road (Fallsgrove)
  • 65 Somewhat walkable:  Redland Boulevard and Pleasant (King Farm)
  • 63 Somewhat walkable:  West Montgomery and Laird (West End)
  • 48 Car dependent:  College Parkway and Princeton (College Gardens)
  • 35 Car dependent:  Falls Road and Kersey (Horizon Hill)

I’m sure this will generate controversy and prompt comparisons between neighborhoods (what!? Twinbrook rated the same as Fallsgrove and King Farm? Not possible!) but I’d really like to encourage a discussion about making our community more bike and pedestrian (and sometimes car) friendlier.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?  According to Walk Score, the more of the following characteristics it has, the better:

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

The City of Rockville recently received federal funds to develop “complete streets” near the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations, so scores for those locations (and pedestrians using those locations) should improve as a result.  Any suggestions to make your  neighborhood more walkable?  Should walkability be a goal for Rockville?

4 responses

  1. Max,
    thanks for this thought provoking article. Unfortunately, I don’t find criteria in the list that specifically identifies why people would want to walk on Rockville’ streets. My wife and I bike and walk all over Rockville and use streets in Rockville during the day that have less pass-through traffic as Our major criteria. for example, the article cites Md. Ave as a good walking street. we find it too busy and noisy with cars and trucks to enjoy walking or biking on it. the same can be said of GreAt Falls Rd that is now filled with traffic but does have a nice wide walking path along it.

    I think this would make a great topic for a CRR forum!


    1. Yes, we may disagree about what makes a place “walkable,” but do we even agree as a community that “walkability” is a desired community trait? And if so, what makes it walkable? The Rockville Summit is examining the aspects of the community that are worth enhancing but I don’t recall anyone even mentioning it (perhaps it’s just an assumption).

  2. I have a disability, which requires me to use a “rollator” walker, for short distances, such as one block, and a battery-powered scooter (similar to a battery-powered wheelchair), for longer distances. The cobblestone and bricks, in Rockville are awful for people who have the kind of disability, which I have. Montgomery County passed a bill, perhaps about two years ago, which requires all new construction NOT to use cobblestone, bricks, etc., because these materials are awful for people with disabilities to navigate. I wish Rockville would follow the County’s lead and do likewise. It would make Rockville an easier place, for people with disabilities to “walk.”

    1. Good points. This map only measures walkability, not universal access (I bet that map would look very different, as would “bikability”). Rockville encourages brick sidewalks in the historic districts because they were an early form of paving and complements the look and feel of the neighborhood (indeed, non-historic neighborhoods can NOT install brick sidewalks). When I was on the Historic District Commission a couple years ago, we reviewed a city project to install brick sidewalks on Middle Lane behind the Beall-Dawson House, which were placed on top of a concrete foundation to reduce the possibility of an uneven surface. It appears to me to be a good surface both for shoes and wheelchairs. On North Adams, it was a bit more challenging because it is the oldest surviving brick sidewalk in the city, probably dating back 80-100 years. In that situation, our goal was to level and widen the sidewalk to modern standards, but reuse the old brick as much as possible by flipping them over and using new brick when that wasn’t possible. Of course in time it will become worn and uneven, but for the next few years, the community can actually walk on the past.

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