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Area steps it up in walking scorecard

COAST CITIES — Coastal North County fared well on the 2013 Regional Walk Scorecard, with four of the five cities placing in the top 10. 

The highest ranking of those cities is Solana Beach, although it took one step backward this year despite the recent completion of a $7 million renovation project along Coast Highway 101 that aimed to make that corridor more walkable.

La Mesa is this year’s top scorer because of its extensively catalogued local walking conditions and consistently upgraded intersections and other facilities to better alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians.

The city, which was second last year, also instituted several incentives to reward developers for designing buildings and neighborhoods with walking in mind and created a robust program to educate students and families about pedestrian and bike safety and encourage them to walk and bike to school.

National City dropped down one spot from 2012 to second, and Imperial Beach moved up one to nudge out Solana Beach for third by two points. Encinitas, Carlsbad and Del Mar placed fifth, sixth and 10th, respectively, with Oceanside coming in 15th out of the 18 cities in the county.

WalkSanDiego, the country’s largest pedestrian advocacy group, announced the results Oct. 31. The scorecard provides a rating of how walkable each city is in San Diego County.

The ratings are based on a variety of factors, including the number of pedestrians hit by cars, the existence of policies that support walking, pedestrian infrastructure and data on walking conditions collected by San Diegans using a phone app developed specifically to rate regional streets.

Three scoring categories are used. The status-of-walking index combines two indicators related to how walkable each city is currently.

They are the total percent of residents whose commute mode was either walking or transit in 2000 and 2010, according to Census data, and the pedestrian collision rate calculated per population and per miles of street.

For the implementation and policies category, WalkSanDiego gathered data on projects happening on the ground and balanced them with big-picture goals considered critical to enhancing walkability.

For the third category, BestWalk field data, WalkSanDiego developed a smart phone application that allowed residents across the region to collect and upload data regarding the walkability of streets and intersections through the completion of fact-based questions that included “Is there a painted crosswalk?” and perceptual questions such as “Do you feel safe here?”

Only about 1,500 intersection and street assessments were completed. Because of the relatively small sample size, and because the BestWALK app will be improved over time, the field data accounted for only 10 percent of the total score.

Solana Beach scored the highest in the BestWalk category, receiving 9.2 points out of a maximum of 10. A low score in the implementation and policies category — 29.2 out of 55 — is likely why the city slipped in the rankings.

Danny King, the city’s environmental programs manager, said that should improve next year after Solana Beach completes its general plan update

Of the county’s 18 cities, Del Mar scored the lowest for implementation and policies, with only 18 points. Encinitas and Carlsbad were on the high end, garnering 35.5 and 34.8 points, respectively. Oceanside scored 30.1.