Comment of the Day: Houston’s 6 Truly Walkable Neighborhoods

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON’S 6 TRULY WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOODS “. . . [Y]ou can have walkability even when density is just moderate. Small town downtowns are walkable even though most folks arrive by car. Many commercial neighborhoods in streetcar suburbs built before 1950 are this way. What makes them walkable: comfortable street design (sorry but 40 mph is too fast), frequent safe pedestrian street crossings, ample sidewalks in good condition, pedestrian-oriented buildings that aren’t separated by big parking lots, on-street parking (what Houston lacks in too many places), decent night lighting, and relatively small block sizes. Houston has subsets of these features in numerous places but the whole package is very rare — 19th @ Rutland, Rice Village (mainly just strip malls mushed together), Harrisburg @ 67th, the Historic District downtown, and the main gay bar area in Montrose (awful or nonexistent sidewalks though and lacking night lighting) come close, plus of course Bagby @ Gray. Hence developers building them from scratch (West Ave, River Oaks District, CityCentre, etc.) to satisfy demand.” [Local Planner, commenting on Comment of the Day: Sorry, but Houston’s Never Gonna Be Walkable] Illustration: Lulu

25 Comment

  • Old Houston Height neighborhoods-no curbs and people park perpendicular across the side walk.Very dangerous!! Illegal?

  • Dont forget about White Oak area. Shopping, restaurants, pubs, live music, grocery, art gallery, bike and skateboard shop, coffee shop, craft beer dispensary, barber, bike trail, dentist, playground and the one item that truly defines a walkable neighborhood: easy access to an icee machine.

  • Yep. To continue the thread on street design and sidewalks as critical components to walkability. I live in Midtown and take the train to my office every day. Even here, there are two or three blocks on my walk that have no sidewalks. And even worse, no shade. With better sidewalks and shade, it would be an “ok” experience in August, not “just barely tolerable.”

  • No curbs in the Heights, true, but plenty of ditches! While walking to that hip-cool new place down the block, be careful not to break your neck.

  • Walkable streetscapes are not rocket science: Zero or near-zero setbacks, no or low parking minimums, decent sidewalks, low traffic speeds.
    Big chunks of Chapter 42 actively prevent pedestrian-friendly development from happening. Let’s start with a blanket waiver on setbacks and parking minimums for areas we’d like to be “walkable”, then maybe use the TIRZ money from increased development to improve sidewalks.

  • This is mostly moot since people in Houston won’t walk anywhere–you know, the humidity, walking is so 1860–etc–you can make the city as walkable as you like, but when you have people who will drive a block so as not to walk, it sort of futile–Im very athletic so Id love to see the city more walkable, but still Houstians don’t really like to walk —

  • The problem with the newly designed “walkable” developments is that they’re islands unto themselves. They don’t link up to adjacent neighborhoods the way the old, Prewar developments did. Two examples come to mind. City Centre: don’t ever think about walking to the strip center next door if you’re parked in one of their garages, or vice versa – you’ll be towed. (So much for the idea of eating a nice meal and then walking next door for a night cap.) And Sugar Land Town Center: with the Freeway on one side and 4 lane roads on the other sides – even if you live a half mile away, you have to drive to get there.

  • It was never about walking to places nearby, it’s about having the freedom of choice. I grew up in the suburbs and it was a financial prison. Now I don’t have to have a car nor am I funneled like some coupon clipper to buy certain products. Anyone against “walkability” is against the American concept of Freedom (looking at you cumminsense).

  • @ZAW,
    You can’t walk to nearby places in CityCentre/Sugarland/Pearland/etc. because those are just malls turned inside out and are meant to have you “stuck” at them so you only spend your money at their development. The walkable areas in the loop are actual neighborhoods that link to nearby one’s easily (i.e. Midtown’s street grid directly into Downtown).

  • Exactly what I was getting at, Brian. They are really just shopping malls with a different design approach.

  • So true, really the focus should be linking up the cities neighborhoods–like nicely designed foot bridges over busy roads, maybe make certain ones designed specifically to each neighborhood, or create Greenbelts to link up the neighborhoods–busy streets ruin the cohesion –urban planners need to gong creative ways to link up these different areas –when I lived in Dallas I’d run the the Turtle Creek Greenbelt up thru Highland Park into University Park and back, they all linked up beautifully –I often wish Memorial Park connected directly to Buffallo Bayou Park, too bad Kessler didn’t just make it all Park when he designed it, it ends abruptly at Sheperd, you’re rudely reminded that you’re still in the concrete jungle–cast out of Eden as it were

  • Shannon, did you run directly through the Dallas Country Club? Not sure how else you’d manage to get to University Park that way.

  • I live on the western edge of River Oaks and consider my neighborhood walkable. I’m within a half-mile of Highland Village, and about 1.5 miles from the Galleria and the Costco shopping center on Richmond (I’ve walked to them all). Theoretically, I can walk all the way to The Montrose along Richmond, Westheimer or Alabama with decent sidewalks all the way.

    That said, however, the situation is bad along San Felipe and residential side streets, where sidewalks, if they exist at all, just end abruptly. So many homeowners have taken out the sidewalks, or park their car in a short driveway, blocking the sidewalk completely. The city really needs to take over sidewalk maintenance instead of leaving it up to property owners.

  • I’m going to go so far as to say that many people in Houston not wanting to walk is as much an effect of city design as the cause. I’ve enjoyed walking a great deal in other cities, and even I do limited walking within a reasonably walkable neighborhood here because of issues like poor sidewalks and fearing for my life when it comes to crossing large roads on foot. Take a drive-happy Houstonian and put them in the heart of somewhere walking-friendly like Boston or Chicago and I bet you’ll see a different attitude towards foot travel. Make the infrastructure friendlier to walking and I’m pretty sure you’re going to see more of it. We’re already seeing a dramatic increase in biking and we’ve barely gotten started on biking infrastructure.

  • Spoonman, tho I do have relatives that belong to the DCC, I’m not sure they’d have appreciate me running with no shirt on shorts handing off my ass thru the greens of their rarified club–no I simply detour off Lakeside to Beverly then make a left and Hogg along the sidewalk as I follow the fence to The Volkswagen Estates, run they there and turn around and repeat my journey -(have you seen the new clubhouse at the DCC–it’s a Jacobean Tudor pile, much more worthy of the club than the former clubhouse)

  • *sorry iPhone spellcheck is a bitch–

  • Hmmm, it’s the Volk Estates –hang, not Hogg–ugh, the iPhone really doesn’t interface well with Swamplot and it’s hard to go back and correct errors in the text–My apologies for the billion and one typos

  • @Roadchick where exactly is The Montrose? I know precisely where Montrose is, and indeed that whole area is walkable. that’s why people walk around the area, but The Montrose, never heard of it.
    Is that what all the uppity folk call Montrose to try and hide the fact that they gentrified and made lame the most coolest neighborhood in town?

  • Simple observation: a neighborhood is walkable if it was built prior to the advent of the car. If you’re in a neighborhood built when cars ruled, then you’re less likely to get your amenities down the street.

  • I know it’s not exactly Houston per se, but I’ve found The Woodlands to be extremely walkable. I’ve never had a problem up here in the burbs. Plus I’ll agree with others, most people are just too lazy to walk.

  • Totally agree with the original comment and #20 above. Density does not seem to be relevant. I have lived in Houston proper and The Woodlands and found the latter to be extremely hospitable to biking / walking. There are trails that go everywhere. You can get from the mall / commercial area to any area the West, South, or North reaches of The Woodlands on dedicated paths. I know more people that live in and ride bikes to work in the The Woodlands than I ever did working downtown. I think Houston is missing the boat here. For the cost of one light rail line, Houston could probably install dedicated paths that connect a majority of the city and the low density means that most of the land / ROW is available at a cost that makes it possible.

  • Can I just firmly reiterate the point I made in the thread that spawned this one?:

    The biggest deterrent to walkability in Houston isn’t the heat or the distances.

    It’s the broken up pavement, fragmented sidewalks, pits of mud, and pools of water. Or the absence of any sidewalks at all. And this (unlike heat or distance) is a solvable problem.

    I truly believe this. I’ve lived in both the Heights and Montrose, and a nice evening walk can turn ugly when you have to stroll into traffic/through mud/into people’s yards/over ditches/etc. Except in River Oaks, I’ve never been on a walk in Houston that didn’t involve some degree of off-roading. Hell, I’ve never walked on a single block in Houston that didn’t involve off-roading.

  • W Gray and Waugh — Kroger and Whole foods, drug stores, restaurants, fast food, movie theater, book store, heck even a dollar store. No place more walkable IMO.

  • If the city would fix the potholes in the sidewalks of Montrose more people would walk and not end up in the emergency room.

  • I like what someone commented here about linking up neighborhoods with bridges, etc. If we linked our major walkable neighborhood with walkable ways to get there, I think it force developers to build better. Plus I think the city should invest in mini bus travel, like that they do in Midtown and Downtown. In a way it could be a free taxi service to get around quickly.