Cities are the manifestation of human complexities. The urban complicated lifestyle engenders many problems that people are continuously trying to address. Key among which are the impact we are having on the environment, stress, anxiety, and pollution and its impact on our health and wellbeing. I think there are some small changes to our lifestyle that we can implement to address some of aspects of these pressing issues, for example, the promotion of walking.
Let’s try to think about the benefit of encouraging active lifestyle, walking more specifically:
- It is an environmentally friendly way to commute short distances and economically efficient as it is free and does not require investing in any type of gear, bikes…etc.
- It helps with personal physical and mental health.
- It helps develop better personal understanding of the community and the sense of belonging.
- It helps create safer streets with more human presence, and the list goes on.
So, after a few lockdowns, where we were working from home with hardly any commute either for work or leisure, I feel that it’s the right time to be more active and find ways to promote walking in our cities. We as urban designers should facilitate the promotion of a healthier lifestyle in our cities and create a cleaner environment to live within.
Jeff Speck in his “Walkable City” highlighted the importance of the walkability of a city and the broad range of benefits. The book states: “How can we keep our children from leaving? The obvious answer is that cities need to provide the sort of environment that these people want. Surveys – as if we needed them – show how creative-class citizens, especially millennials vastly favor communities with street life, the pedestrian culture that can only come from walkability.”
Relatively recent research by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation showed that almost 64% of the UK population are overweight or obese, and nearly 40% of the kids are overweight or obese as the research conducted by. As we can see in figure 1 and figure 2 below that the increase in the recent years is at least 10% in the obesity level.
I believe that improving walkability will make the community healthier and the cities more alive. This leads us to the main question, what makes our cities more walkable? The answer is far from simple, however, as I said earlier, we do not need to look into paradigm shifting solutions, there are small adjustments and changes, easy to implement, that collectively would lead to the aimed eventual improvement. For instance, why do not we make some parts of public squares and maybe some pedestrian paths more attractive for kids and their parents to walk. This can be achieved at a small cost with the use of some colourful paints on the grounds to create some fun activities for all members of the family to enjoy. This also can be used to create educational activities for children to learn while they are having a fun walk with their family, after all learning through playing is an established method of education in the early years of school.
In figure 3,4, and 5, we can see some examples of simple street drawings in the public space.
Improving walkability would also help increase social interaction on the streets and make them vibrant, and full of life.
These small suggestions could certainly help implement an aspect of the 8-80 cities concept, making some public spaces more fun for kids to use while they are adopting a healthier lifestyle indeed helps with the 8 side of the concept. So, let’s try with little steps to make a kids’ city of fun.