Will Walkable Neighborhoods Lead to More Walking?

It took mankind thousands of years to domesticate horses, and even after we had tamed the beasts, many people still relied upon their own two feet to travel where they needed. Armies of men marched thousands of miles to wage war, and many of the greatest explorers had nothing but their legs to take them through uncharted lands. And in the span of just two centuries, mankind, it seems, has forgotten how to walk.

Ok, that last part might be a bit of a stretch. Cities are growing, and many city dwellers walk day in and day out. But many Americans don’t really have a choice when it comes to walking. The lack of sidewalks and distance from basic amenities mean cars or buses are the only real choices. If we build more walkable neighborhoods though, will more people start walking?

I come from a small town with limited sidewalks. In fact, the only area in town that has sidewalks at all is Main St. where only a handful of our 6,000 residents live. The rest are spread out over 23 square miles, about the same amount of landmass as Manhattan. I’ll let you guess which area has more walkers.

A recent study in Edmonton researched many different factors governing what gets people to walk. The study found that many people are more concerned with having a single family home than the “walkability” of the neighborhood. Furthermore,¬†private¬†developers aren’t too concerned with making walkable neighborhoods either… which boggles my mind. What would be so bad about returning to an era of local grocers and mechanics and clothing stores? The big-box stores probably wouldn’t be so happy though.

There are many health benefits to walking that I don’t need to rehash. But just because you build a neighborhood where you can walk, does that mean you would actually walk? Would you rather pay a little extra for the ability to walk to a grocery store, or drive to say, Wal-Mart for the low, low prices?

Source: Eureka | Image: National Geographic

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.