Walkability and the City Beauty Quotient

There's no shortage of writing and conjecture on New York City when it comes to urban and city issues. But one subject that has been neglected in the urban academic discourse is the city's incredible concentration of beautiful women.

It's amazing. It's like you can't avoid them, not that you'd want to. Walking down the street in New York City is like walking down a fashion runway. With cross traffic. And no security guards trying to tackle you.

I've been to the city a number of times and while it is great and everything, there's no need to gush over it as so many have and so many will in these sorts of discussions about urban areas. But I think it's important to illuminate this aspect of the city that I've definitely noticed, which for purely academic purposes I'll call the city beauty quotient. And I'm not alone. My buddies have noticed it in their travels as well – and these guys are not planners or "urbanists" or academics or whatever we'd like to call ourselves. They are simply my bros. But they're also users of the city – the users planners and theoreticians aim to serve.

I've had conversations with these users of the city after they return from trips to New York, and they typically marvel at what I too have marveled at. I mean, these women are everywhere. I'm no creeper, and I'm not just in the city to gawk at women, but it's hard for me and my equally not-creepy friends to ignore the fact that we see an awesomely high volume of beautiful women walking around New York City.

But there's the key. When you walk around in New York City, you see beautiful girls (or guys, if that's your thing) doing exactly what you're doing: walking.

New York City, as a specific place, doesn't really have anything to do with the high city beauty quotient. It's actually a result of what kind of city it is. New York City happens to be a very walkable place, and because of this, people can walk around to serve their needs. Density, transit, jobs and other important factors play into this, but at its core, New York City is a city where people walk.

And because we're all walking in New York City, there's a greater chance that we're going to see each other. And if a girl walking happens to be gorgeous, there's a greater chance that I'll be able to see just how gorgeous she is. And what a wonderful world it will be.

So it only seems that there are more beautiful girls in New York City, but the truth is that there are just more beautiful girls seen.

Other cities probably have just as many beautiful women (proportionally), but they simply go unnoticed. In L.A., for instance, beautiful women are all over the place, but they're in cars driving 20 miles per hour on the freeway, leaving little chance of them actually crossing paths with other strangers in the public realm. Because this chance is so small, L.A.'s city beauty quotient suffers. It's the same story in any other auto-oriented place, whether in the rural Midwest or in the urban heart of the Sunbelt. There probably are a lot of beautiful women in these places, but you're not likely to cross paths with too many of them face to face. So this prompts the question: If nobody sees them, are they even there?

The answer, of course, is yes. They are there. They just need a chance to be seen to prove it. In New York City, they have that chance, and, boy, are they seen. They're seen enough to give the false impression that they're only in New York City. But they're not. They're everywhere – just not walking. But if they were and you were, well, maybe you'd run into each other.

If this isn't justification enough for creating more walkable cities, I don't know what possibly could be.
Nate Berg is a contributing editor for Planetizen and freelance journalist.



I think you may have left

I think you may have left something out. Because walking has a very high share of commuting and other trip, people in New York City are in some ways healthier than most Americans. There is a strong correlation between fitness and beauty.

On the other hand, some parts of New York with little access to healthy foods. There are neighborhoods in the Bronx with no supermarkets, no corner groceries, little other than convenience stores and fast food.

I wonder what you would think if you walked on those streets.

when it snowed this december

when it snowed this december in Portland everyone was on the streets, and it was like a beautiful girl epidemic. and it's not as if we were hitting on them or anything, just a few shared smiles and the perception that the world was not such an ugly place after all was enough to make a very happy and productive two weeks.

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