People are Pedestrians by Design


There is something absolutely amazing that happens when a child takes her first steps. As she starts exploring the world in the vertical position her perception changes. And this new spatial awareness transforms her from an infant into a person. It’s almost as the ability to walk defines a child as a human being.

Through evolution humans became pedestrians. Research on evolutionary biology has examined the connection between our feet and heads and how the development of people as walkers and runners affected the development of our brains. We all know this feeling – when we pace around the room in search of a solution to a problem or go for a walk to ‘clear our head’. The connection between the brain and the feet is clear.

For thousands of years of evolution walking was the only form of transportation available to most. Our brains are “hard wired” to the experience of walking as our eyes are conditioned to register the objects at 3 miles/ hour. At this speed human brain is able to acknowledge a face of the passerby, a flower, a bird or a sign in a storefront.

Walking is also an integral part of our social life. People like to be surrounded by other human beings and walking allows for opportunity to “bump into” an old friend, a conversation, an observation, and a participation in activity.

People’s bodies and minds are designed to participate in a pedestrian lifestyle. As technological advancements allowed us to “engineer walking out of our lifestyle” we are faced with multitude of problems from depression to diabetes and from anxiety to cardiovascular disease.

While entire health industry is alarmed by increasing rates of obesity and every day we hear recommendations for adding physical activity to our lifestyle it is important to note that simple walking twice a day for 15 minutes at a time is often enough to maintain a healthy weight. But most urban and suburban areas developed in last 50-60 years are not designed for pedestrians. Intense traffic, lack of sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure make it unsafe to walk.

In order to allow people to be pedestrians again we need to design streets and public spaces to the “human scale”. Creating places that are safe and fun to walk will soon result with people incorporating walking into their daily routine. Walking to school, running errands on foot and using transit for longer trips will become a part of healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

Because “people are pedestrians by design”.