Freedom of Mobility is the Key to Happiness

Cities designed for one type of mobility - the car - result in residents impaired by multiple types of ailments. To create a happier and healthier city, the solution is to facilitate many ways of getting around, especially alternatives to the auto.
Paul Krueger / flickr

"Is urban design really powerful enough to make or break happiness?" asks Charles Montgomery. "The question deserves consideration, because the happy city message is taking root around the world. 'The most dynamic economies of the 20th century produced the most miserable cities of all,' [former Bogota mayor Enrique] Peñalosa told me over the roar of traffic. 'I'm talking about the US Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, cities totally dominated by cars.'"

Montgomery goes globetrotting in search of the secrets of the world's happiest cities. And what, did he find, do happy cities share in common? They've found ways to facilitate travel by means other than automobiles.

"Why would travelling more slowly and using more effort offer more satisfaction than driving? Part of the answer exists in basic human physiology. We were born to move. Immobility is to the human body what rust is to the classic car. Stop moving long enough, and your muscles will atrophy. Bones will weaken. Blood will clot. You will find it harder to concentrate and solve problems. Immobility is not merely a state closer to death: it hastens it."

Full Story: The secrets of the world's happiest cities

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