To stroll, in a town without cars
Taking a walk is actually 1000 times good for you. It improves your health, mood, and entire life, connecting you with your neighbourhood, and generating a small piece of vibrancy in your own community as you engage and connect.
Indeed, so critical is what urban planners now call ‘walkability’ to the quality, upkeep and life of a city, that it has become their holy grail. The best cities now achieve walking residents and beautiful urban environments – with both contributing to the other in a virtuous circle of spiritual uplift.
It’s a dynamic that has seen Enaki Town place its vehicles underground. Residents don’t suffer hefty walks taking home goods from outside. Once parked, they take an immediate lift to their front door. But they do then live in a car-free environment, built around walkways, gardens, and open boulevards in a town that is built for walking.
That doesn’t make fitness a requirement. For those who wish, golf carts will whizz you anywhere. But for everyone, the town has been created as a haven, where the shops, the gym, restaurants and gardens are only ever a short walk away.
And that makes a big difference. Global engineering firm Arup found that walking even a short way boosts creativity by an average of 60 per cent. People who stroll are more likely to be productive, have better memory, and make better decisions.
Indeed, if local walking replaces a long commute, it makes as much difference to happiness as falling in love.
Even small doses are like miracle cures. Walking just 8.6 minutes a day makes people 33 per cent more likely to report better mental health. Small strolls have also been shown to improve physical health across every kind of chronic disease, reducing the risks of type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and increasing overall life expectancy.
In short, walking is a personal health fillip. But taking cars away does more than encourage walking, it removes ambient noise, and makes a quieter and more harmonious surrounding. It also cleanses the air, and when combined, as Enaki Town is, with lush gardens, botanical walks and forests, creates a mini-lung for the city’s air.
And then there is the impact on the community itself. People in walkable neighbourhoods are more cohesive. They are more likely to know their neighbours, and will meet people they normally would never meet – older couples getting to know young families, teenagers knowing dynamic professionals. Indeed, one study in Ireland found that residents in areas where everyone walks had 80 per cent more ‘social capital’ than in car-dependent areas. Such areas also attract a different type of resident: they are more likely to be home to highly skilled professionals, they enjoy higher rents, prices, and are better cared for. For walking through a neighbourhood sees us ‘own’ it more as our space, and do more to help take care of it. That sees more street art and open-air events, which, in turn, help draw people out.
Residents’ spending is different too. The less people drive, the more money they have for other things, with one study in Portland, Oregon, where people drive 20 per cent less than the rest of the country, estimating they were saving more than $1bn, which they were spending on other things.
In all, building a carless town, replete with waterfalls and cycle tracks, beautiful stores, and benches just to sit on and natter, is a path to a quieter, less frenetic and healthier life built around nature and other people. The cars at Enaki Town are kept firmly in their own place, underground: useable, but no longer life defining, shaping, and invading.