Happy Cities Series: Walking Cities

Walking as a happiness activity, seems to automatically apply to city design.  Already there is HEAPS of urban design theory that talks about walkability, connectivity, permeability and accessibility –

  • Mixed land uses and services in walking distance to home and work,
  • Crime Prevention Through Design and safe pedestrian environments
  • Trails in open space for walking
  • Walking as a recreation and commuting
  • Disabled access
  • Traffic light priority for pedestrians
  • Pedestrian networks of streets, destinations and public spaces
  • Footpaths and street trees to support walking environments
  • Active uses and built forms that support lively footpaths

Walking is said to reduce depression, and  I remember reading it in something like “The Little Book of Calm”.  Perhaps it is the repetitive action and the time to think that is calming.  It reminds me of times when I was upset about a friend and had to leave the house just “to walk around the block”, and of a time when I walked the super long way home after a confronting talk with a boy.

I was walking in Toronto with my friend Paul K after a lecture, he was heading home, I was heading to the streetcar.  We talked about transit, cycling and he mentioned he walked a lot, from home to work.  He described it as the “calm between the storms that awaited him”.  At the time I told him it made sense, that is a time to tune out, to slow down, and to not be bothered by anyone. (PS, this makes me think of my busway art project).   As I pointed out some building detail to him,  I said walking is also a time and space to be present and observe the world around you.  Since a great walk has great things to look at – great “walking cities”, must also be great “looking cities”.


I find I walk a lot more in new places like when on holidays, and even more since not owning a car and mostly only cycling for recreation when I had a bike.   A game I play with myself sometimes when exploring is to be guided by the traffic lights.  I’ll just cross which ever light changes first.  Just following the “green man” to see where I end up.



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