A Step in the Right Direction

New Calgary communities get walking again.

According to all those films from the 70s and 80s – it’s the future – and we’re all supposed to have flying cars. However, as the automobile enters its second century of popularity, it’s our feet, not our wheels, that need celebrating. Admittedly, Calgary is not a city known for its walkability. But we’re thrilled to see newer neighbourhoods, like University District, Seton, Garrison Woods and Currie Barracks making effective efforts to change that. Walkability, after all, boasts a myriad of benefits:

Walking Improves Personal Health

Walking for just 30 minutes can burn an easy 100 calories. You’d have to sit in your car clenching your core muscles for an hour to achieve the same numbers (and we suspect it would be far less pleasant). Walking is also statistically proven to help you live longer, and remain healthier; chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are all linked to inactivity.

Walking Makes Us Happy

The connection between walking and mental health is undeniable. Not only are walkers more creative and productive in their work lives, they tend to be more connected to their communities. More opportunities for social interaction promotes connections throughout generations, community engagement and, well, making friends. And if that wasn’t enough, Fast Company’s research finds that if one shifts “from a long commute to a walk, their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love.” 

Walking Makes Our Communities Safer

Sometimes, the simple solution is the right one; having more eyes on the street is key to improving safety. Encouraging a community with on-foot and on-bike commuters means statistically reduced crime, which, in turn, saves the city on the costs of electronic street surveillance. Not to mention, traffic safety dramatically improves when urbanites have the choice to travel by car, by bike or by foot to their desired location. 

Walking Strengthens Our City’s Economy

Another no brainer here: if you pass a business on foot, you’re 65% more likely to go inside and make a purchase than if you’re trapped in your car. Businesses, in turn, are likely to beautify the streets with attractive design and commuter-friendly developments. Property values soar with higher walkability and better street design, and increased tourism is never far behind. The snowball effect crescendoes with city dwellers experiencing enhanced senses of place and pride, leading to public protection of businesses and developments, and thriving community health. 

Walking Makes Our World Healthier

Promoting sustainable forms of transportation not only makes people, communities, and cities healthier, it affects the wellbeing of the entire planet. Reducing the use of personal motor vehicles means less pull on our natural resources — which, scientists tell us, may run out completely in the next 50 - 75 years. Less car traffic also means less air pollution, less carbon monoxide emissions, and a better quality of life for those of us breathing within the city limits. Less required maintenance of roads and street infrastructure frees up funds for cities to spend in other ways, like subsidizing green housing developments and eco-friendly public transit options. 

No matter which way you look at it, improved walkability does wonders for a city’s health and happiness. Calgary’s efforts to improve walkable life will see massive returns in both expected and unexpected ways for generations to follow.

June 27th, 2017
Updated: September 18th, 2017

Walkability makes people, communities, cities and the planet healthier.