How Walkable is Your Elgin?

How walkable is your Elgin?

This past Saturday included the Winter Market and all the other Window Wonderland activities – reindeer, roasting chestnuts, holiday shopping, and more. Last year, it snowed during the festival, making it even more magical. This year, after a rainy morning (perfect for finishing my final exam of the quarter), the clouds parted, and the sun came out. So I walked to downtown, as I often do on Saturdays. I perused the Market, admired the decorated storefronts, returned some library books, got some coffee, and generally enjoyed the day before returning home about 4.

Of course, as soon as I got home. I realized that I had forgotten about the tree-lighting, scheduled for 5 PM. I’m a sucker for Christmas lights, so I headed downtown again, on foot.

Sunday morning, a friend and I had brunch plans at the Elgin Public House, and we walked. The brisk air felt good, given how miserable early December can be. While at brunch, we talked about the walkability of Elgin. I was drawn to my neighborhood by its proximity to nearly everything I need: Metra, a grocery store, library, coffee, etc. It’s a blessing not to need to dig out my sloped driveway immediately after snow hits.

And while Downtown Elgin has come a long way in the five years I’ve lived here, there are still barriers to walking. In northern Illinois, the weather can be a big drawback, of course. I wimp out when the mercury drops below 20, or when there’s too much ice for my YakTrax to safely overcome. The city does a great job clearing their part of the National Street hill, but one of the business owners doesn’t, meaning it becomes a dangerously sloped ice rink. Plus, there are certain safety issues late at night, especially walking through some poorly lit areas. I could never give up my car entirely, but 7 years without a car in Chicago trained me to shop small and walk whenever possible, habits I’m glad I’ve kept.

Downtown Elgin’s WalkScore is about 82, or “very walkable.” The site calculates a score based on proximity to transit, schools, parks and several categories of businesses, including banks, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, groceries and entertainment. The database seems to have holes in it – it’s missing Butera, the Speakeasy, and others – but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

Walkability, from the center of downtown.

By contrast, New York is the “most walkable” big American city, with a score of 85. Chicago has a 73. Naperville a 74, Schaumburg 54. In each case, I input just the city name, and it calculated a score for the city center. In Elgin’s case, it appears to use the YWCA on East Chicago Street as the center point. You’ll get a different score if you put in a more specific address. My house has a score of 60.

What do you think? Is your part of Elgin walkable? What would make it more walkable? What keeps you from walking? What would encourage you?


11 responses to “How Walkable is Your Elgin?

  1. Drops to 55 from my house, though I still walk to the train and downtown when it’s nice weather. Clearing snow from the sidewalks along Highland is an issue in winter, with maybe 60% of the walk to the train shoveled. As much as I love Elgin, there is simply no comparison with a couple of dozen similarly sized areas of Chicago. And Brooklyn was the best on walkability, fuhgeddaboudit!

    • Absolutely agree on the shoveling issue. But a bigger question: what do people expect? People move to Brooklyn and expect walkability, but is that true in Elgin? I do, but I picked my location carefully. If I didn’t care so much, I could have moved along McLean or Randall.

  2. what grocery store are you referring to downtown? Do Supermercados count?

    • I count Butera, which the WalkScores people don’t list. They mention La Roca – I’m not familiar with it, guessing it’s a tiny convenience-type place.

  3. From Twitter @ElginKevin:
    I can say that the redesign of the National Street Metra station made my journey to the train more dangerous. The west-lot entrance was changed so that east-bound vehicles no longer have to slow down to enter. They usually do not.

  4. From Twitter @ElginChat:

    It takes into account Downtown Elgin but what if someone live on Randall or Rt. 25? If I lived on Randall I’d like to be able to cross that busy road to get the theater or to Target.

  5. Pingback: What’s Missing? | The Adventures of Elginista

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  7. Downtown is very walkable in my opinion. Most of the downtown storefront business owners do make a good effort to clear their front sidewalks when it snows. Icing issues usually occur in front of the vacant storefronts which are not always immediately cleared or salted by the property owners.

  8. Having lived on the east side of Elgin most of my life on Liberty St., there weren’t always a lot of things I walked to. I lived close to Lord’s Park but never was allowed to walk there as a kid by myself because of gang issues. A lot of places that are near the park now weren’t there growing up (Blockbuster, Walgreens, Aldi, etc.).

    Interesting enough, I decided to put in Arlington Heights as that’s where I live now. I put in just the city and my address and it only has a score of 78 for the downtown which I found odd. We only live just over a half mile and I feel like the locations it picks out are not that great. For instance, it doesn’t even list our public library and it says there aren’t any bars close either, both of which are false. I wonder where they get their information from.

  9. We moved to the St. Ed’s HS area because walking to the Metra, Dairy Queen or Mel’s is easy and walking to downtown is doable.

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