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Report card: walkability in Tennessee

What can you walk to from your house?

A park?

A grocery store?

A restaurant?

For many of us in Tennessee, the answer is “none of the above.”

Most of our cities are sprawling, lack consistent sidewalks, and have public transit and safety issues that make it hard to get around entirely on foot. It’s frustrating, of course, but it’s also a missed opportunity when it comes to our health.

Walking has been shown to:

  • Help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Strengthen bones and muscles
  • Improve your mood
  • Develop balance and coordination
  • Prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes

As a form of exercise, walking is one of the best things you can do because it’s free, low-impact and easy.  And that’s where some of our cities give us trouble.

“Obviously, we need sidewalks and clean streets and safe neighborhoods, but we also need destinations,” says Dr. Debra Bartelli of the University of Memphis School of Public Health.

“If you can’t walk anywhere near where you live or work or learn, what’s the point?”

Going the extra mile

Tennessee is getting better about working walkability into our plans.

Cities are building and expanding greenlines. Local organizations are adding bikeshare programs to connect people and stimulate activity. And through the BlueCross Healthy Place program, we are building communal spaces for healthy activities all across the state,  including our recently announced project in Chattanooga’s Highland Park.

How Tennessee fares right now

Below you’ll find our largest cities ranked by Walk Score, a site that grades cities out of 100.

  • Major metropolitan areas like New York (89), San Francisco (86) and Chicago (79) score high
  • Large Southern cities like Atlanta (49), Charleston (40) and Charlotte (26) often score lower

The 33 largest cities in Tennessee have an average walk score of 22, and our four biggest cities score between 28 and 37.

That means every large city in Tennessee is car-dependent.

breakdown of walkscore methodology where 90 and above is a walker's paradise and 24 and below is car-dependent

Tennessee’s most walkable large cities are:

  1. Memphis (37)
  2. East Ridge (32)
  3. Knoxville (31)
  4. Cleveland (30)
  5. Chattanooga (29)

Tennessee’s least walkable large cities are:

  • Brentwood (5)
  • La Vergne (12)
    Spring Hill (12)
    Collierville (12)
  • Farragut (13)
    Mount Juliet (13)

While Walk Score only ranks Tennessee’s largest cities, you can input any address to get your walk score.

Tennessee cities: Walk Scores

Scroll down to view all 33 cities ranked by population, or click here to view the full list ranked by walkability.

1 Nashville 28 Davidson
2 Memphis 37 Shelby
3 Knoxville 31 Knox
4 Chattanooga 29 Hamilton
5 Clarksville 18 Montgomery
6 Murfreesboro 24 Rutherford
7 Franklin 23 Williamson
8 Jackson 24 Madison
9 Johnson City 26 Washington, Carter, Sullivan
10 Bartlett 15 Shelby
11 Hendersonville 16 Sumner
12 Kingsport 26 Hawkins, Sullivan, Washington
13 Collierville 12 Shelby
14 Smyrna 18 Rutherford
15 Cleveland 30 Bradley
16 Brentwood 5 Williamson
17 Spring Hill 12 Maury, Williamson
18 Germantown 16 Shelby
19 Columbia 23 Maury
20 Gallatin 24 Sumner
21 La Vergne 12 Rutherford
22 Mount Juliet 13 Wilson
23 Cookeville 28 Putnam
24 Lebanon 23 Wilson
25 Morristown 28 Hamblen, Jefferson
26 Oak Ridge 18 Anderson, Roane
27 Maryville 26 Blount
28 Bristol 25 Sullivan
29 Farragut 13 Knox, Loudon
30 Shelbyville 24 Bedford
31 East Ridge 32 Hamilton
32 Tullahoma 19 Coffee, Franklin
33 Dyersburg 27 Dyer


To learn more about how walkability and our surroundings affect health in Tennessee, click here.

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