An increasing number of Americans are choosing to park their cars, in favor of walking, biking and using mass transit to get around town. The trend had increased over the years, but showed significant gains in 2020 as working from home became more prominent and reliance on personalized vehicles shrank.
But life without wheels in the United States isn’t for everyone. It largely depends on location and access to essentials such as grocery stores. That’s why LawnStarter, an outdoor services provider, crunched the data to determine 2021’s Best Cities for Living Without a Car.
They compared the 150 biggest U.S. cities across 20 key indicators of car-free lifestyle-friendliness. The metrics range from the number of walking/hiking routes to the share of residents who ride public transit to work. It even factored in average sunshine in each city.
Here’s the list of the 10 best cities and 10 worst American cities for living without a car, followed by some key takeaways.
Best Cities for a Car less Lifestyle
|1||San Francisco, CA|
|5||New York, NY|
Worst Cities for a Car less Lifestyle
|144||Overland Park, KS|
|148||Little Rock, AR|
Highlights and Lowlights
Walking on the West Coast: Pacific Coast cities dominated the list with four — five if you count Honolulu — of the top 10 cities for living without a car. While performing well in all categories, cities like Portland broke through in access metrics such as the number of walking/hiking routes and bike score. And with milder temperatures, West Coast cities also received high scores on climate metrics.
Commuting Across BosWash: The Northeast Corridor performed equally well in all car-free categories. Also known as BosWash — meaning everything between Boston and Washington, D.C. — the region has a dense population and multiple transit options. While receiving lower scores in safety and climate metrics, cities like Washington, D.C., ranked high on commuting methods such as the share of residents who walk or bike to work.
Alone in Alabama: The South scored poorly in the study, but Alabama had all four of its large cities ranking in the bottom 10. While places like Mobile and Montgomery have low walk and bike scores, the biggest hits to the Yellowhammer State were in the climate category. With extreme amounts of hot days and precipitation, it’s fair to assume Alabama commuters prefer air-conditioned cars to wet and muggy sidewalks.