Familiarity Fostered on Foot Breeds Social Movements

A new study suggests that density, mixed-use neighborhoods, short city blocks, and, crucially, walkability foment political and social activism, reports Richard Florida.
July 8, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In a paper published recently in the Urban Affairs Review titled "Walk and Be Moved: How Walking Builds Social Movements,Brian B. Knudsen, a research associate at Urban Innovation Analysis, and Terry N. Clark of the University of Chicago argue that, "engagement in political activism or social movements is shaped by walkability, density, the physical layout, and the unique experience of cities—'the ways in which an individual interacts with and makes use of urban environments, neighborhoods, and spaces.'"

"The study provides substantial evidence that it is not just density, or the crowding together of people in urban areas that shapes political and social activism, but the direct engagement of the city through walking," explains Florida. "As Knudsen told me via email, these 'social qualities of walking' operate through two primary mechanisms. On the one hand, walking 'activates imagination and creativity' and on the other, 'it empowers people to act through creating trust and familiarity.' And he adds: 'It does both in part through enabling social interactions.'"  

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Published on Friday, July 5, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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