I’m in the business of helping create happier streets. I’m convinced that more walking and cycling can help this. And happier streets leads to more vibrant and connected communities. So how does this happen? Well I don’t think it’s as simple as just one thing. I think it’s a series of elements, that if we can start to weave together, we begin to build the happiness effect.
By Richard Eason
I’ve believed this for a few years now, but so far I’ve failed to try and put why I think this into words. So here’s my first attempt.
More walking & cycling helps create happier communities because….
1. When we walk and cycle there are increased opportunities for social interaction.
There maybe the odd raised finger from the steering wheel, but let’s be honest, once we’re cocooned in our cars we’re more focussed on getting where we’re going. But when we’re walking or cycling, it’s so much easier to engage with those around us.
It’s the slower pace that enables it. A quick hello, a wave across the road or simply an acknowledging nod or smile. These tiny interactions help us connect to a place. For some, these small gestures help combat feelings of isolation.
And seeing more people physically out and about on our streets helps make us feel safer too.
Will you smile at someone in your community today?
2. Walking & cycling can encourage us to support our local businesses, rather than shopping out of town.
Local businesses help form key anchors in our communities, whether they’re cafes, butchers, hair salons or the local grocery store. Independents bring variety and personality to our high streets and help build vibrant local economies.
For every £1 we spend locally up-to as much as 70p can stay in the local economy, compared to just 5p spent in a national chain.
Shopping little and often reduces waste and is easily manageable on foot (small rucksack) or by bike (baskets and panniers). You never know, you might even stumble across a business or venture you’ve not noticed before.
How about popping into one of your independent local shops this week to show your support?
3. Getting active triggers the brains happiness levels.
When we’re active our brain releases chemicals into our body. These nifty endorphins have many positive impacts, which includes reducing the feelings of stress and tension and generally helping us feel more positive and motivated.
But we get more than just these short-term happiness benefits. Building in physical activity into our everyday lifestyles can have a dramatic impact upon how happy we are in the long-term – helping to reduce a whole raft of unpleasantness in later life.
I’m not talking about spending hours and hours sweating in gyms. Purposefully walking or cycling (to somewhere you were going anyway) for just 20 minutes or more each day, will set you off on the right track.
Healthier communities are happy communities, get active today and feel those good vibes start to flow.
4. Improving conditions for walking and cycling helps bring equality to our streets.
In many towns and cities lots of people don’t own a car. In London, this applies to around 50% of households. Despite this, everyone shares the burden of paying for our roads through the general taxes that we pay.
So I think it’s only fair that when we invest in our streets we create safe space for walking and cycling too. Many people can walk short distances and when it comes to buying your own personal transport, there is nothing much more affordable than a second-hand bicycle.
A community that show fairness and tolerance, along with a desire to protect those who may be more vulnerable, sounds like a good place to live.
5. Creating places for more walking & cycling puts people, not motor traffic, at the heart of urban design
For decades, how to efficiently move cars through our towns and cities has been the focus of urban design. But thing are changing.
We’re now starting to think about how we design places that are best for people. In some cases this is about how we can provide appropriate space for all forms of transport. In other instances it’s about removing some vehicles altogether.
The design of the places around us plays a big role in defining our quality of life – so it makes sense that people must come first as we re-design the streets where we live.
So the ‘why’ is clear to me. But the challenge is often in the ‘how’. I’m interested in sharing ideas and learning more about how we can help create happy streets in our towns and cities.
That’s why I’ve created a publication here on medium called ‘Happy Streets’. I’m hoping we can start to collect together some useful articles for those who’s work involves helping to create happier streets.
I’ll be adding my own ideas, so follow along if you’re interested. But you can also tag your own posts into the publication, please get in touch if you’d like to know more.
At CycleFox we believe the bicycle has a big role to play in building happier, more vibrant and connected communities. Our mission is to help more people enjoy the fun and freedom of cycling.
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