With a population of over 900,000 residents, Jacksonville is a bustling metropolis with a rich history and a diverse cultural landscape. The city’s subtropical climate, with mild winters and hot summers, make it an appealing destination for many.
Despite its many attractions, though, you can’t really explore all of Jacksonville on foot. Jacksonville’s vast size, coupled with its car-centric infrastructure, makes it a challenging city for pedestrians.
Nevertheless, there are a number of neighborhoods in Jacksonville that are very walkable. In fact, I lived in Jacksonville for 6 years and commuted to work by bicycle and/or bus and foot nearly the entire time.
In this post, we’ll look at pedestrian safety in Jacksonville, accident statistics, and the most walkable neighborhoods in the city.
Pedestrian Safety in Jacksonville
While Jacksonville has made strides in improving pedestrian safety in recent years, it still has a long way to go. The city has a higher pedestrian fatality rate than the national average, and it consistently ranks among the most dangerous cities for pedestrians in the United States.
The city has implemented various initiatives aimed at improving pedestrian safety, such as redesigning intersections, installing more crosswalks, and implementing traffic calming measures. But these efforts are still in progress, and it may take some time before their impact is fully realized.
Also, many accidents in Jacksonville occur because of pedestrians crossing the street where there isn’t a crosswalk. It may be easy to blame the pedestrian in this case, but it’s also poor design – many of the city’s major roads do not have enough crosswalks.
It could be a half mile or more between crosswalks, forcing many pedestrians to choose between walking 20-30 minutes out of the way or taking a chance and jaywalking. They shouldn’t have to make that choice.
Pedestrian Accident Statistics
The pedestrian accident statistics for Jacksonville paint a sobering picture. According to a report by Smart Growth America, Jacksonville ranks as the sixth most dangerous city for pedestrians in the U.S. Between 2008 and 2017, there were 419 pedestrian deaths in the city.
The city’s sprawling layout, coupled with high-speed roads and a lack of adequate pedestrian infrastructure, contribute to the high number of pedestrian accidents.
Jacksonvill’s Most Walkable Neighborhoods
Despite this, Jacksonville has numerous neighborhoods that are very much walkable. I lived in the Riverside-Avondale are for 6 years and worked at St. Vincent’s Riverside. I was able to safely walk or ride my bike nearly anywhere I wanted to go.
In fact, in 6 years I probably got on I-95 an average of 3-4 times a year – at the most! I am living proof that you can live in (or visit) Jacksonville and enjoy a car-free life (or at least only occasionally get in the car).
There is also an extensive public bus system in Jacksonville. You can buy a STAR card or download their app and ride for a very low price. In the summer especially, when it was too hot to bike without showing up sweaty, I took the bus almost everyday. I could get to the hospital faster than it would take to even find a parking spot in their garage.
Here’s an overview of Jacksonville’s most walkable neighborhoods, as well as other spots you can enjoy a walk.
Riverside, located just southwest of Downtown Jacksonville, is one of the city’s most walkable neighborhoods. With its eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions, Riverside has lots to offer pedestrians.
The neighborhood is known for its historic architecture, tree-lined streets, and vibrant arts scene. It’s home to the Riverside Arts Market, a weekly outdoor event featuring local artists, food vendors, and live entertainment.
Memorial Park has a paved loop for walking. In the center is a huge green space for relaxing, playing with your kids, or enjoying a soccer game. Photo: Alex Evans
Riverside is also home to numerous parks. Memorial Park in particular is very popular. Like many locals, I loved spending a Saturday morning going to the Riverside Starbucks, grabbing my drink, and heading across the street to Memorial Park for a morning walk. You’ll also find people playing frisbee, enjoying time with their kids, or walking their dog there.
Just southwest of Riverside is Avondale, another neighborhood known for its walkability. Avondale is characterized by its quaint residential streets, local boutiques, and a variety of dining options. There are also lots of historic homes here. Many of them were built in the 1930s and 1940s.
The neighborhood is also home to several parks, including Boone Park, which has tennis courts, a playground, and a network of walking trails. Boone Park was another favorite of mine, especially after my son was born. I could easily walk there from where I lived, so it was of course another top weekend spot.
Taking my son out for a walk at Boone Park when he was a baby. Photo: Alex Evans
Across the St. Johns River from Downtown Jacksonville is San Marco, an upscale neighborhood known for its Mediterranean-style architecture and trendy dining scene.
San Marco Square is one of the best spots there, and has a wide range of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions, all within a walkable setting. I have great memories of taking my son sometimes to play over there at Landon Park. We often headed over to San Marco to get something to eat or drink afterwards.
San Marco Square. Photo: Alex Evans
The upscale neighborhood right behind San Marco Square is also a really great place to take a walk. It is on the water, so you can enjoy both waterfront views and checking out the beautiful homes.
St. Johns Town Center
St. Johns Town Center is a huge outdoor mall area, home to a plethora of stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Malls aren’t really my thing, but it is very popular and also very much pedestrian friendly.
The shops and restaurants are closely knit, allowing you to easily walk from one place to another without much hassle. Moreover, the area is well-maintained, with clean sidewalks and ample lighting adding to its walkability score.
There are also numerous parks and green spaces in the vicinity of the St. Johns Town Center. The University of Florida is right next to the Town Center and has some really nice walking trails. The trails go through the woods, so it’s a nice escape from the city.
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without talking about Jacksonville Beach. The sidewalks here run along the beach and are wide and well-maintained.
One of Jacksonville Beach’s many public access points. Photo: Alex Evans
There are lots of beach access points, though, so obviously the best place to take a walk in Jacksonville Beach is the beach (of course!).
One of Jacksonville’s biggest challenges, that it has struggled for years (in all honesty decades) to improve, is its downtown area. They are often talking about huge improvements, like a recent $2 Billion investment, but so far not much has actually happened.
The Jacksonville Landing was torn down while I was there, which helps a lot. The Cowford Chophouse was another big win for downtown. But it is compact and easy to navigate on foot.
Riverwalk in Jacksonville, near the YMCA. Photo: Alex Evans
Starting in Riverside, right at the Arts Market, and leading to downtown is Jacksonvillke’s Riverwalk (or Northbank Riverwalk). There is another part of the path on the other side of the St. John’s River too, in San Marco (the Southbank Riverwalk). Both are absolutely beautiful. And they are connected too, by a walking path on the Alsop Bridge.
I’ve seen manatees and dolphins in the river during the right time of the year. You can walk and bike on this path, and it also runs right through the Winston YMCA.
The Corkscrew Gym was one of my favorite parts. They built it while I was there, and it’s complete with rings, dip bars, pull up bars, and even free weights when it is staffed. It is one of the only places I’ve ever seen where you can work out, outside, while enjoying waterfront views.
Ortega, located on the western bank of the St. Johns River, is one of Jacksonville’s oldest and most prestigious neighborhoods.
The neighborhood features wide, tree-lined streets and a network of sidewalks. The residential areas are peaceful and quiet, making it a perfect setting for leisurely walks or morning jogs. You can also enjoy seeing all the beautiful historic homes in the neighborhood.
Stockton Park was one of my favorite spots in the Ortega Neighborhood.
Murray Hill is known as a real artsy part of Jacksonville. It is kind of known for the graffiti art, and I thought it was funny when there was a huge debate over Bill Murray being painted on the side of a building (Bill Murray has no connection to the neighborhood, other than the name).
Murray Hill has its own little downtown area that, while small, is filled with some cool spots. One of my favorite spots in the Murray Hill neighborhood was Community Loaves. It is one of the best bakeries on this side of Jacksonville!
The Bottom Line
Overall, much of Jacksonville is a dangerous place to be a pedestrian. Despite this, Jacksonville offers a number of walkable areas, each with its unique charm and appeal. It also offers beautiful riverfront views, walks through the forest, mall walks, and much more. So no matter what you like, you’re sure to find a walking path for you in River City.