Discover some of the world’s most walkable cities, and walk your way through them, to a more environmentally-friendly future.
Just because something can be made faster, smarter, and more advanced, doesn’t mean that its foundations should be completely ripped up and scrapped for parts. Sometimes, the best developments are the ones that enable us to better enjoy what we already have, building upon it to provide greater functionality and efficiency.
In the race toward digitalization and innovation, we’ve likely lost touch with some of the simpler things in life that should be held onto with all our might. Traveling by foot has long become underrated, as more and more mobility solutions hit the market – the bicycle, the car, public transport, airplanes and helicopters, and soon, autonomous vehicles. That said, getting around on your own two feet is not only a great way to take in your local sights and surroundings, but it’s also an excellent way to stay physically active, and one way that you can help lower your city’s carbon footprint and protect the environment against pollution and its derivatives.
What makes a city walkable and what infrastructure sends feet running in the opposite direction?
Success: 2022’s most walkable cities
It is clear that some cities around the world are making foot traffic a priority, earning them the title of “the world’s most walkable cities,” in 2022. Note that a city does not have to be located in a mild climate, to be hailed as highly walkable. Rather, these cities share certain characteristics in common: wide walkways, pedestrian-only and bike-only zones, lots of greenery, densely packed commercial and tourist areas in compact geographical areas, and picturesque architecture. They also prioritize proximity to critical services, such as grocery stores, medical clinics, and schools. In doing so, they motivate pedestrians to ditch modern transportation methods in favor of their two feet, even if it means bundling up when it’s raining or snowing out, or braving a heat wave, to make it from their homes to their places of work, a favorite eatery, or a shop.
In Amsterdam, most of the city’s attractions are concentrated in or near the city’s center, making it easy to get from one place to another on foot. Munich’s stunning architecture makes walking to and from work a beautiful and vibrant experience, with pedestrians able to pause along the way for a cup of coffee, a dip into the city’s pedestrian mall, a stroll through one of the many art museums, or a selfie opportunity in the English Garden. In Montreal, locals and tourists brave the months of winter weather to walk around the downtown business and shopping district and can duck out of the extreme chill to meander through the blocks upon blocks of underground shopping the city has to offer. In other areas of the city (accessible via the city’s metro system), many people spend hours strolling through the Old Port’s structures and parks and enjoying the tourist sites and panhandlers who perform for large audiences, each and every day. Cars cannot access Venice. Instead, people mill about the city on foot, only using gondolas to get between canal-logged areas. And, of course, New York City is the ultimate walkable destination. Its grid layout makes for simple navigation, and the sheer volume of stores, restaurants, businesses, and attractions within relative walking distance from one another invite locals and tourists to use their two feet to get around, rather than spending a fortune on taxis, and getting stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.
Room for improvement in the land of the ‘Wandering Jew’
How does Israel compare to these extremely walkable cities? Unfortunately, not too well. Built by refugees looking to set up home as quickly as possible, it seems as though the infrastructure was not well laid out, for people to comfortably walk around the country’s cities. For example, though Ariel is a relatively small city, it is built lengthwise and on an incline, with most services concentrated at the city’s top and bottom. Roads are long, with few – if any – intersections in between, and many have been made one-way, for safety reasons. As such, most locals tend to take their cars for even the shortest of jaunts.
In Tel Aviv, traffic makes it almost impossible to travel via car (or find parking), but the sheer size of the city and its many neighborhoods is a major deterrent for foot traffic. The lack of proper sidewalks in some areas also poses a safety hazard. As such, locals tend to opt to travel via public transit or moped, and tourists prefer using taxis to get from place to place… at least until they reach more walkable areas, such as the beachside boardwalk, or Dizengoff Street and its many shops and eateries.
Jerusalem fares slightly better. Although the city is quite large, each neighborhood has its own parks, grocery and convenience stores, schools, synagogues, and other small businesses. The near-constant gridlock in the city also motivates locals and tourists to walk from place to place (or use public transportation), and the city’s center does have added walkability; pedestrians can easily make their way along Jaffa Road, all the way from the Central Bus Station, through the Machane Yehuda marketplace and Beh Yehuda boardwalk, to the Old City and the Western Wall.
Walking our way towards more and more innovative walkable cities
At the end of the day, a city’s walkability status is an important factor in its perception as a place to be. As many cities around the world push to become smart cities, it’s important to ensure that proper infrastructure to enable walkability is included in the plans. This, so as to promote greater physical and mental health among locals and tourists, as well as to promote a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly footprint in the area. Technology can be used to make foot travel safer and more efficient, but, in truth, there’s nothing more satisfying than conquering the town with nothing more than a clear mind, a sense of adventure, and your own two feet.
Let’s get walking!