Does the Hilliness of San Francisco affect it’s Walkability?

San Francisco is famous for its steep hills, in fact they are part of what makes the city so distinctive and unique. There are over 50 hills within the city and while they provide some great views once you’re at the top, they can also be a real pain to walk up!

But walkability isn’t just about hilliness or proximity to shops, its a combination of many different factors. Now Walkonomics has created walkability maps of San Francisco that compare the Hilliness of streets to several other factors including:

  • Quality of sidewalks;
  • How smart and beautiful is each street;
  • Fear of crime;
  • How easy it is to cross the street.

To do this the Walkonomics web app combines Open Data such as 311 trip hazard reports, crime statistics, accident locations and the number of trees in each street. It also calculates the slope of each street using elevation data and measures how difficult this would be to walk up for the average person.

Using this data, each of the 14,000 streets in San Francisco are given a rating out of 5 stars for each walkability factor. This is mapped on a Google map and local residents can add their own ratings and suggestions of how each street could be made more pedestrian-friendly.
The Walkonomics map shows that while hilliness is quite severe in San Francisco, the city has many other aspects that make its streets more walkable.

For instance the 64,000+ street trees in the city have significantly improved the ratings for ‘Smart and Beautiful’ on many of the streets. Some of the cities steepest hills, such as Filbert Street, may be tiring to climb, but have plenty of trees and are relatively safe from crime, thus averaging out the overall walkability rating.

But the walkability map of San Francisco is an on-going, open project, as local communities and visitors are invited to correct any inaccurate ratings by adding their own reviews of each street and ideas for improvement.

San Francisco is a truly great city, with some fantastic streets and many great reasons to move around the city on foot. And while the steeper hills may be a problem for some, for others they just provide a more efficient way to burn calories!

Image courtesy of http2007 (adapted).


  1. “There are over 50 hills within the city and while they provide some great views once your*** at the top, they can also be a real pain to walk up!”
    ***=you are


  2. This should be done for Pittsburgh… another walkable city whose “highly dissected plateau” topography is even more rugged than San Francisco.


  3. can the author please provide a source for the metrics of hilliness? in other words, what constitutes ‘steep’ or ‘hilly’? is it a slope? thanks.


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