Tiburon, Oakland, Berkeley, Lafayette and Palo Alto are amazingly walkable Bay Area suburbs.
Whether it’s a desire to be greener or, simply, a desire to drive less, more and more Bay Area families are shifting to a “one-car” lifestyle—and that means they need a very walkable suburb to call “home.” These communities are easy to navigate by foot and have some added perks that make it easy to travel between the city and suburbia.
Tiburon, a family-friendly town 19 miles north of San Francisco, has a great vibe San Francisco moms and dads love plus all of the essentials families need—a grocery store, drug store, coffee shop, dry cleaners and a library, plus a few restaurants and boutiques.
“It’s where I live!” says Suburban Jungle San Francisco Strategist Pamela Goldman. “And I know a lot of families with one car.”
While, as Pamela explains, Tiburon might not seem very walkable at first glance, “the key is the ferry,” she notes. “A lot of houses are within a 10- to 15-minute walk of the ferry and there’s a path that many neighborhoods connect to where you can bike to the ferry. If your spouse can walk or bike to the ferry, it’s easy to have one car.”
The Blue and Gold Ferry departs from Pier 41 and travels to San Francisco in just 30 minutes. Plus, coffee is offered in the morning and cocktails in the evening—the perfect way to get around.
Even kids can get themselves around the area, using the Path which, because of its waterfront position, offers amazing views. The town also has a robust school busing system so many families don’t have to drive their kids to and from school.
The North Bay isn’t the only place with a high degree of walkability—over in East Bay, one-car families are snatching up properties in Oakland. Developers and city planners have taken note, as seen by a surge of single-family homes with yards within walking distance to supermarkets, restaurants and cafes.
Downtown and Piedmont Avenue are just a few of Oakland’s most-walkable neighborhoods—no surprise, then, that Oakland ranked as the #9 most walkable city in the U.S.
Also very walkable? Rockridge. Many families can walk to the BART from this family-friendly neighborhood which, in addition, is home to great shops, restaurants and two high-scoring elementary schools.
Montclair is also ideal for one-car families. While hilly in parts, there’s a great walking path and downtown with all of the essentials. While Montclair is far from BART, it’s easily commutable to San Francisco by Transbay bus service to San Francisco. In many cases, this can be a better option than BART—you’ll get a seat and have both AC and WiFi.
#3. Palo Alto
With its accessible outdoor eateries, bookstores, shops and theaters lining University Avenue, it’s easy to see why Palo Alto is considered a paradise for walkers and one-car families. Here, all parking is free, but CalTrain riders and bicyclists tend to make up a huge piece of the daily population. Palo Alto is even home to the nation’s Bicycle Boulevard, with thousands of the city’s 98,000 employees using bicycles as their preferred method of commute.
Walk Score gives Lafayette an 86—and with good cause. Most residents are within a 20-minute walk to main amenities, including public transportation, shops, grocers and schools. Here you’ll have access to a BART Line—and it’s just five stops to San Francisco’s Financial District. There’s also a seven-mile trail from Moraga and Lafayette—here, you’ll spot kids riding bikes to and from school during the week, and families pedaling around on weekends.
That said, while the downtown area is highly-walkable and close to public transportation, some families live a bit further out, in more rural-feeling spots in Lafayette. Here, walking can be trickier, as can coordinating car-free commuting.
Berkeley frequently ranks among the most walkable in the Bay Area suburbs. With a 96 Walk Score and a bustling downtown, this community is ideal for families craving access, amenities and a city-meets-suburban lifestyle that’s easy to navigate with a single car.
The town has three BART stations and lots of commercial spots filled with shops and restaurants. Biking is also very popular among residents of all ages—and it’s especially helpful considering parking can be tricky in some spots. If you’re exploring, keep in mind parts of Berkeley Hills may be less walkable. Be sure to “test drive” a route if that’s what you’re looking for.
There are hundreds of towns to choose from in the Bay Area. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.