Friendlier people, safer streets and a welcoming sense of community are some of the key reasons that many Americans are moving to smaller, walkable communities. If you’ve ever thought about moving from your big house in the suburbs to a walkable, community-focused neighborhood, now is a great time to walk the walk.
People are making the change to move to emerging “walkable neighborhoods” in American towns and cities. Areas like the Minneapolis Lowry Hill East neighborhood and Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, Arizona illustrate that the right mix of people, cultural buildings, stores, bars and restaurants can have a positive effect on, well, everything.
Authoritative data always helps when making an informed decision. Recent studies show that your life will be noticeable better when you live in a neighborhood where everything you need on a daily basis is within a 5-minute walk. A 2014 scholarly meta-analysis of research illustrated the fact that living in compact walkable environments increases safety, social interaction and overall health – three great reasons one’s life is better.
Results from a 2014 University of Kansas study linked higher brain activity in adults who lived and walked in communities planned for convenience. The study illustrated that adults who walked for pleasure in easy-to-walk communities demonstrated better results in health areas, such as lower blood pressure levels and lower body mass, as well as increased memory retention and other cognitive ability.
Simply put, more walking reduces body fat and lowers blood pressure, two key health problems for Americans. Imagine the vitality of a local community when neighbors see each other every day for fitness, social visits or community events. It’s the walkability that allows for groups of people to come together more often, with positive results.
Other than the sheer day-to-day comfort, there are clear benefits for walking in smaller, urban environments. People find a new energy in these communities, including the newest developments, in which architects and planners have studied the reasons why people are happier living in these environments.
Benefits of Walkable Neighborhoods
Here are five reasons why your life will be better living in a walkable neighborhood.
- Healthier Behavior – In walkable communities, people significantly increase their physical activity, and that by itself will increase the release of endorphins that bring happiness to people. Increased happiness is one of the prominent findings of a recently published study on the Mueller community in Austin, TX. Researchers found that in the entire study sample, levels of exercise and movement significantly increased.
- Richer Experiences – Living in a walkable community provides more opportunity for life-rich experiences between residents. Life–rich experiences are positive encounters between people of all ages, guided by overall friendliness and closer neighborly connections to others. The desire for a more enriching community is shared by parents, families and retirees alike who want to live in a tight-knit community in the heart of a city’s culture and activity center.
- Fewer Cars – In walkable communities, there is less of need for cars, because everything is within a close walking distance. Fewer cars in the neighborhood reduce the amount of exhaust fumes and noise, leading to a more environmentally friendly community. Fewer cars also translates into reduced gas costs for residents, who may be able to then use those savings on, say, dining out more frequently and other life-rich experiences.
- Higher Street Safety – With fewer cars and more residents out walking, it makes logical sense that levels of pedestrian safety will be higher. Narrower streets, too, mean that auto speeds are slower, and this creates a better balance between pedestrian foot traffic and existing auto traffic. Additionally, having cars parked on both sides of the street will inherently slow traffic and create safer neighborhoods overall. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control recommends that towns have more street crossing zones and other amenities to encourage safe growth and pedestrian safety.
- Eat, Drink and Shop Local – A key benefit to enriching your lifestyle in a walkable community is the power to eat, drink and shop local. You’ll know where to meet friends and in doing this regularly, you’ll build relationships with local business owners. That’s the way it should be. If a local antique shop or coffee shop gets community support, they can provide a unique feel and resource. A business with character always feels warm and inviting.
Overall, creating and populating an energetic community is a team effort between planners and developers and those who will live in and enjoy the community. Humans need the physical activity that a walkable community provides, and it brings out the good in people. This, in turn, enhances our social connections in communities. It’s a win-win for everyone.
For even more information and resources on the viability of these types of communities, consult the website Walk Friendly.