This opinion piece by Gina Tomaine brings up some of the benefits of walking in our car-dependent society. Despite the numerous benefits of walking, people often prefer to drive because it is often faster (although not always, especially if you have to circle the block to find a parking spot), and as we all know, time equals money. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that walking has the advantages of better health, lower financial and environmental costs, and less traffic congestion and road rage. Tomaine notes that many professionals in London don’t even have driver’s licenses because their public transit system is superior to almost all in America and they choose to walk instead of drive. Few cities in America (most notably New York City) come anywhere near this sort of car independence. Tomaine cites Thom Hartmann’s Walking Your Blues Away, a book about how getting out of your car is good for your mental health because it allows for a change of scenery.
Of course, many (if not most) Americans don’t have the option to walk to work, because they live in single-use areas far away from work areas. That’s where New Urbanism comes in. A greater mixing of uses that comes with New Urbanism would be of benefit to even some of our largest and oldest cities, which have unfortunately torn down old mixed use areas in the pursuit of “progress,” eliminating people’s freedom to choose their transportation method in the process. Even though many of us can’t start walking everywhere right now, we should pressure our local governments to plan better and allow for the freedom to choose walking, biking and transit as viable transportation modes along with the car.