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The Best and Worst Cities to Live Without a Car

In Florida, 600 tons of dead fish piled up on beaches. In the Western U.S., droughts contributed to wildfires causing air-quality warnings thousands of miles away. In usually wet and temperate Britain, the first-ever heat warning was issued. In China, record rains caused deadly floods. Each of these events took place within the space of a few days last week, and each was likely spurred by climate change.

One way to make a difference on a personal level is to ditch your fossil-fuel-powered car. Transportation is responsible for about 29 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which reports that abandoning just one car would save roughly 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide from escaping into the environment each year.

Of course, going carless is easier in some places than in others. A recent study by LawnStarter compared the 150 largest U.S. cities to find which were best (and worst) for living without a car. Results were based on metrics related to walking, biking, commuting, safety (pedestrian fatalities, for example) and weather (some places are just too cold or too hot to hoof it.)

San Francisco, despite ranking 81st among the 150 cities for safety, came out on top, largely because of its mild climate and high commuting scores (and despite its challenging hills). In fact, West Coast cities took four of the top 10 spots, their mild climates helping move the needle.

Shreveport, La., came in last, with the lowest safety score in the bunch. Like many southern cities, it also suffered in the rankings because of a humid climate inhospitable to walking or biking, and poor commuting systems. It wasn’t the hottest, though: Five Arizona cities — Scottsdale, Glendale, Chandler, Phoenix and Gilbert — tied in that category, topping all other cities for their number of over-90-degree days. (San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Fremont, Calif., along with Seattle, tied for the fewest number of over-90-degree days.)

Washington, D.C., was deemed to have the best commuting methods and time, helping it climb into third place. Portland, Ore., landed in second thanks to its access score, which rewarded cities for larger shares of bikers, walkers and carpool participants.

This week’s chart, based on LawnStarter’s study, shows the top and bottom 10 cities for carless living.

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