Walking and Well-Being

<p>Walkable Communities founder Dan Burden believes walkable communities contribute to greater happiness -- and that Silicon Valley has a thing or two to learn from Denmark.</p>
July 15, 2008, 11am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"One measure of quality of life is the level of access we have to the things we value most - jobs, safe streets, affordable transportation and housing, and quality health care, schools and civic spaces such as parks and other gathering places. The ability to walk to many of these places from our homes or places ofemployment generally raises that quality-of-life index. When researchers look for places where people are happiest, it's often in communities where they can live near where they work, walk their children to school and shop at stores within walking or biking distance.

It's probably no coincidence that more than 20 years ago, Denmark set a vision to become one of the best places to walk anywhere. It took a long time to get there, but the Danes apparently are very happy with their results.
Silicon Valley can follow this example. It can leverage its standard of living to increase its walkability and improve its quality of life.

In Silicon Valley communities, most people don't live near where they work. In fact, many of the cutting-edge thinkers and innovators of the region have the worst commute times in the country.

Studies also indicate people are least happy when in their cars, largely because they cannot predict what will slow them down, or when. Thus the long commutes of Silicon Valley have gotten more and more costly, not only in terms of money and time, but also happiness.

Unfortunately, over the past several decades, we've designed our communities to move automobiles, not people. Too much is tied to the auto and is out of walking and bicycling range for residents. The happiest places in the world were designed to accommodate and support people, not their cars."

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Published on Sunday, July 13, 2008 in San Jose Mercury
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