I’ve been reading the chapter on walkable communities in HRH The Prince of Wales’ book Harmony. In it, he talks about the town of Poundbury in SW England, which planners designed in a spiral pattern of individual mixed-use mini villages containing schools, shops, and private homes within walking distance of each other. Automobiles are almost unnecessary. In fact, the thoroughfares were constructed more as wide walking paths than roadways. Cars are allowed but don’t rule the streets.
Personally, I’d love to be able to get to the places I need to get to by foot, if for nothing else than the exercise and social contact with my neighbors. I’ve noticed more people in my neighborhood walking their dogs on the street and in the park. My own dogs, usually so suspicious of everyone they encounter on our walks, have fallen in love with a woman who lives a few doors down from me. How great is that? I didn’t think they liked anybody! Walking brings people together. While walking through New York City’s Upper West Side this past July, my husband and I witnessed two people walking their dogs toward each other from opposite directions. It was clear from the few snippets of conversation that I overheard that the dogs and people had never met before. The dogs, in a way that only dogs can, introduced themselves and became instant friends. Their people struck up a conversation, and who knows? At that moment a human friendship may have been born. You can’t do that while driving in your car to the grocery store.