With so many cities prioritizing cars, cargo and promoting economics, a pedestrian-friendly city seems far-fetched to many Southern Californians. In reality, cities in which the human is prioritized over the car are a necessary step to ensure a happier, healthier and more sustainable world.
The biggest reason that cities should become pedestrian-friendly is the health benefits. Cities can encourage walking and cycling by providing safe city streets and places to go on foot. Replacing old, cracking sidewalks with safe paths for pedestrians, ensuring proper lighting and a safe environment away from the cars can promote exercise and health. These improvements not only decrease the risk of chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and asthma but can also boost mental health by getting people outdoors and away from their stressors.
Creating more and safer sidewalks would encourage more feet on the ground and fewer tires on the road, leading to less traffic and cleaner air. While this is not sustainable for everyone, for anyone who lives close to their work even a train or subway station can help reduce traffic, leading to shorter travel times and improved air quality.
People won’t often explore their city because of the constraints of sticking to already mapped out streets and highways and the heavy focus on car infrastructure. However, there are shops and experiences one would not usually go to unless they walked the streets. When a city is so car focused, there is little room for citizens to explore their city on foot, leaving many rather remarkable landmarks, small hole-in-the-wall shops and otherwise unrecognized places to fall off the map.
If there is less traffic caused by cars trying to get through crowded intersections like in downtown Riverside, there will be a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, creating more greenery and tree-lined streets for people to walk along will help combat global warming and clear our air for a more sustainable future.
A pedestrian-friendly city leads to more people interacting and fosters community. Increased foot traffic on city streets benefits small and hole-in-the-wall businesses, leads to a resurgence in street performers and attracts citizens to museums and galleries.
When cities become pedestrian-friendly, it is a step towards bettering the lives of people in the communities and instilling different forms of transportation rather than increasing profits and efficiency.
Other countries, such as in Europe, are already pedestrian friendly and have reaped the same benefits of safer city streets, healthier lives and a brighter cultural atmosphere.
Ultimately, transforming more cities to be pedestrian-friendly can only benefit us. With a host of mental, physical, economic, spiritual and environmental benefits, creating a pedestrian-friendly city should be our future. While cars, trucks and other vehicles help the world go around, there is no reason to push aside the benefits that a walking society can have based on the needs of consumerism. It’s time to step forward into a pedestrian-friendly world.