You might have noticed a sudden rise in pedestrian and bike lines popping up all over the place. You might have even questioned why. I mean, we have cars, so what’s the point? Well, walkability in cities is not just a new fad or craze, and it might be a very good thing, universally.
What is walkability?
Walkability in cities is defined by how easy it is to actually walk there. It is an urban design specifically catering to the people.
In fact, there is even a way to measure if your city is, in fact, walkable: a walk score. The methodology behind the score is simply to take any address and analyse how many walkable routes there are to local businesses and facilities in that area. The shorter the distance, the more points that are earned for that location. In other words, errands should be able to be completed without needing a car.
To sum up, if you can walk to your nearby bakery in under 30 minutes (which is the cut-off for the point system), it means that you probably live in a walk-friendly city or town.
How does walkability in cities affect the economy?
According to some experts, walkability in cities could have a positive effect on the economy as “people spend more money when cities are less vehicle-oriented”. This is because people who walk tend to make more trips as it is cheaper to do so. This, in turn, means that they will spend more money over these multiple trips in total. Car users have to think about the cost of the drive and will, therefore, make fewer trips, which means less spending in total.
Furthermore, property values tend to rise in conjunction with walkability levels. This is because more and more people would prefer to live in an area that is more walking-friendly and has fewer cars. It attracts parents as this would be safer for their children, it attracts the youth (millennials and Gen-Zers) as this demographic has become more environmentally conscious, and it also attracts people in the workforce who would prefer to be able to walk to their offices.
So, a city will benefit by gaining a larger workforce, willing to pay more money to live there, and, on top of that, walkability costs a city very little in the long run. Now, the city can spend less on public transport, roadworks, and even things like the police force and ambulances (since there would potentially be fewer road accidents).
Does walkability in cities have an effect on physical and mental health?
So, the previous section focused a lot on how walkability in cities will benefit the economy. But, how does that benefit us, the people in those cities? It sounds more like our living costs are just going to be raised and that definitely doesn’t seem very beneficial.
While it is true that living costs may go up, we still would save in the long run. Now, anyone who can’t afford a car or is paying high prices for public transport will end up saving.
But, money can’t be all that matters, right? The good news is that walkable cities also come with some health benefits. We all know that walking is good for your physical health, there are tons of articles covering that. However, it is true that citizens living in walking-friendly areas are statistically less at risk for medical issues, like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Also, fewer toxic fumes in the air we breathe means less risk of lung diseases.
Not to mention how lovely it would be to know that you can walk on an actual designated route, without worrying about an impatient driver running you over. Now, parents can let their children walk safely to local parks without that added concern.
Speaking of impatient drivers, imagine a world with less road rage. Wouldn’t that just be an absolute utopia? We have all, at least once in our lives, spent what felt like an eternity stuck in traffic. We all know the stress that can cause. So, not only is it good for your heart to avoid that, it’s also really good for your mental health. Being given the opportunity to avoid potentially stressful environments could do wonders for people with anxiety. An added bonus is that you will now actually have moments to breathe and appreciate your hometown. Interaction with the community is vitally important to our mental state as humans.
Walkability and the environment
Of course, the most obvious benefit to urban planning focused on walkability: the impact on the environment.
No matter who you are, you’ve probably heard the term, “global warming”, being thrown around. We have slowly started to become more conscious about the environment and the impact that we have on it. Even I went and bought myself a ForEVA straw in an effort to cut back on plastic waste in my household.
Now, urban planning can actually help us save the environment. Car emissions are one of the main contributing factors when it comes to causing greenhouse gases. Our feet give off absolutely no emissions. So, if we can rather and more easily walk to where we need, we will actually substantially cut down on greenhouse gases. Walkability in cities means that we could actually sustain our environment in the long term.
On top of that, noise pollution could become a thing of the past. Having more walkers about, instead of multiple vehicles, would lead to much quieter environments. This could also have a positive impact on the surrounding wildlife in your area. Animals can now be safe and not get scared off from their natural habitats.
Deciding where to live based on walkability
So, now we’ve covered the positive sides of walkability in cities. I’m sure many of you out there want to know if your city is walkable or need some help deciding where to move to.
- Florence & Venice, Italy
- Athens, Greece
- Hamburg, Germany
- Madrid, Spain
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Stockholm, Sweden
And those are just a few examples.
So, next time you stroll around your city, take the time to appreciate the opportunity to be able to do so. And, if you’re considering moving any time soon, maybe check out how walkable your dream city is before making a decision.
Is your city walkable? Would you like to live somewhere that is? Tell us in the comments below.