Moving out of my small town onto campus was a huge culture shock for me. Outside of just getting adjusted to campus life in general, the idea that most of the places I needed to get to were within walking distance was jarring to me.
In an article written by Kaid Benfield, it is noted that “only 34 percent of Americans reported walking to destinations (jobs, shopping, school, and so forth) ‘often’ or ‘all of the time.’” Other places all over the world walk nearly everywhere.
American cities are not built to accommodate pedestrians and it is sometimes even unsafe to walk from place to place.
Many cities in other countries are built similarly to college campuses. Places you need to get to are within walking distance, sidewalks are plentiful and it’s safe to get where you need to go.
There’s many benefits to living in walkable cities. Some of these benefits I have seen first hand while others I have learned from digging a little deeper into walkable communities.
One benefit I have witnessed in my day to day life on campus is how much better my body feels overall. Having to walk to your destination and being able to do so encourages you to have an overall more active lifestyle.
Communications adviser, Robert Steuteville, has an article on the benefits of walkable cities. He cites a study that found that walking regularly “cuts early mortality risk by 22 percent.” America’s obesity rates are much higher in comparison to other countries around the world.
While this can also definitely be linked to the types of food we eat and other factors, city walkability is another big one.
Having a car is also a privilege many people are not afforded. Medical conditions, disabilities and money problems can all stop people from getting in a car and driving to a destination. This means that there are many places simply not accessible for those without vehicles, creating a division between those who can drive and those who cannot.
Having cities that are walkable opens cities up to everyone. Some friends of mine who do not have cars have found campus life helpful for this reason. They can get to their on-campus jobs, classes and restaurants despite not having a vehicle to do so.
But they are still limited to spaces on campus. If entire cities were built to function this way, opportunities could be more plentiful.
Steuteville also dives deeper into what walkable cities do for communities socially.
They build a more vibrant street life, create socializing opportunities and make an environment more dedicated to art and culture. Having people surrounded by one another out of their vehicles and thriving within a given space together promotes social unity.