What Your City’s Walkability Says about Your Possibilities
My pants don't fit right. I noticed it this past Sunday when I was getting ready for church. I was putting on my pants for my suit and they felt a little snug. My weight has fluctuated here and there over the last couple of years. I've been worse before and I was able to gauge quickly that fact as I tucked in my shirt this time out. Yes, the pants are snug, but I didn't have to inhale sharply to zip them up. There is still hope.
It happens to the best of us. We get older; our metabolisms slow down. Although with me, I'm home a lot so I'm not out and about and moving my weight to something manageable. Friends suggest I get out of the house and go places, but there's a certain problem with that idea. I don't particularly live in a walkable city.
The ability to get around is very important in a metropolitan area. It defines a people's mentality. It defines what they believe they are capable of doing. It either encourages or discourages a population's health. It reflects a cities' wealth. When a city has the infrastructure to look out for the carless or serve as a hearth for the forward minded (looking out for carbon footprints, you know), it better serves the city on multiple fronts. The people can be more pleasant. They can be happier. Tourism goes up. A culture thrives.
Noting this important aspect of a city serves it well. Asher Smith of Creative Loafing Atlanta
briefly noted the correlation between obesity and walkability today, but I have to ask why this isn't a deeper question everywhere. My hometown of San Antonio has a serious problem and, like its exercise plans, it is consistently dragging its feet on its own self-improvement.
Once again, San Antonio is highly ranked on Men's Fitness's "Fattest Cities in America" list (third this time). It ranks 32nd in walkable cities. While I may not have exercise equipment or a gym membership, it would be nice to have more bus traffic and a mass transit rail line. I certainly didn't have this problem in Atlanta while I was in college, and Atlanta isn't on the Men's Fitness list.
While I'm implying that having more sidewalks, mixed-use zoning, and a rail system will do wonders for San Antonio, I'm not just saying these things because of their practical usage. A walkable city opens up possibilities. Ensuring a city is easier to traverse on foot encourages people to walk more. San Antonio is a sprawl-centered city. Being carless is an absolute travesty around here. I, at 23, am an anomaly to the people I know for still not driving. Suburbia is island-like to me. Walking long distances for the sake of exploration only confounds those who hear my tales. I live in a city where walking doesn't seem like an option because not only does our infrastructure shape our mentality but also our mentality holds back the progression of our infrastructure.
Look again at the ranking of walkable cities. Those top ten cities are considered progressive cities. They have high standards of living. They're filled with educated people. They probably have the highest population of godless liberals, if you choose to see them that way. But for the most part, these cities aren't on the Men's Fitness list of most obese cities. There's considerable overlap with another list of most literate cities in America.
What I'm saying is that there are many things that have to come together to make a good city. Infrastructure builds mentality and just like how well-adjusted children seem to come from loving homes, well-adjusted, forward-moving people seem to come from forward moving cities. If you have more avenues to not use your car, you won't want to be tethered to it all the time.
In the meantime, I'm going to have to try to use the bus more often, despite its slow run times and early shut down.