Sometimes it’s nice to have a car. Like when you have 14 heavy bags to lug home from the grocery store, or you went a little crazy at Ikea. But if your idea of walking around your neighbourhood is walking from your front door to your car, you’re missing out.
Here are some of the benefits of living in a location that’s pedestrian-friendly.
1) You’ll be healthier.
You don’t have to become a CrossFit acolyte or run a marathon to experience the health benefits of moving around. As a general guide, the American Health Association recommends moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Even if you commute to work by car, you can knock out these 30 minutes by walking to a restaurant or bar after you get home.
Study after study shows that walking reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and bone fractures. And if you’re constantly getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic or losing your cool in construction zones, your mental health will benefit from taking the stress level down a notch.
2) You’ll save money.
$10,729. That’s the annual cost of owning a mid-sized car and driving it 20,000 kilometres a year, according to the Canadian Automobile Association. Living in a walkable neighbourhood may allow you to ditch your car altogether, which will fatten your wallet significantly. If you’ve owned a car for any length of time, you know how fast car payments, insurance costs, gas, and maintenance can add up.
But even if you keep your car, you’ll find yourself filling up your gas tank less and less by making more of an effort to walk. Without a doubt, you’ll find a more rewarding use for that extra cash than gasoline.
3) You’ll contribute to a cleaner environment.
In both the U.S. and Canada, nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Burning one gallon of gasoline creates about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. To get an idea of how much damage that actually does to our society, check out Columbia University’s Map My Emissions tool. Enter a start and end address and select your type of vehicle to get a more accurate picture of the social cost of your emissions—according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these costs include things like changes in agricultural productivity, property damages from increased flood risk, changes in energy costs, and health costs.
Worse than you thought, right? Living in a walkable neighbourhood doesn’t solve the problem of global warming all by itself, but it’s a step in the right direction.
4) You’ll form stronger social ties.
Once-a-year block parties or trick-or-treating at Halloween aren’t enough to build social ties within a community. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that people living in walkable neighbourhoods have higher levels of social capital than those living in car-dependent neighbourhoods. The people living in walkable neighbourhoods were more likely to know their neighbours and be engaged in social and political activities in the community.
When you have more opportunities to walk around, you’ll naturally start to run into the same people and form connections. Whether it’s at the corner coffee shop or neighbourhood park, face-to-face interaction creates a sense of belonging that can’t be replicated by waving to people from your car as you leave for work in the morning.
5) You’ll enjoy higher levels of social equality.
Living in a walkable neighbourhood can be a great equalizer when you consider the fact that 1 out of every 3 adults can’t drive. Those who are elderly, disabled, or can’t afford a car struggle to live somewhere without any pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Choosing to live in a neighbourhood that’s walkable creates a more inclusive environment for everyone.
Depending your circumstances, you may not have the option to live in a walkable neighbourhood right now. But if it is a possibility, why not take the plunge and get walking?