People Are Pedestrians By Design

By Gosia Kung

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. The scientists study the connection between “feet and head” and how the development of people as walkers and runners effected the development of our brains. We all know this feeling, when we pace around the room in search for 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 ped 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”.

For more information please visit WalkDenver at www.walkdenver.org

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Gosia Kung, Architect, LEED AP BD+C – was born in Krakow, Poland where has received a degree in Architecture and Urban Design from University of Technology in 1996. Her passion for urban design and sustainable city planning is well grounded in historic context of European towns and enriched with her experience as a practicing architect in the US in last 15 years. As a principal/owner of KUNG architecture her mission is to promote ‘sustainable solutions for the urban lifestyle’. Her focus is on design, education, and consulting in areas of mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods supported by public transit. Gosia is the founder of WalkDenver. She can be reached by email at: gkung *at* kungarch *dot* com.

By | 2011-08-31T08:25:12+00:00 August 31, 2011|Categories: Healthy Communities, Pedestrians|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Frank Locantore August 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the post.

  2. Chris from Downtown September 1, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Shortly before moving here from Boston, a famously walkable city, I overheard two people in wheelchairs discussing how difficult it was for them to get around there. I asked them to tell me which city or cities were easiest. They named one: Denver.

    Wheelchair access and walkability are closely related priorities. Let’s keep working to make our city more walkable, but let’s also acknowledge that accessibility is one area in which we apparently excel.

  3. SVC September 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I also couldn’t agree more. On a trip to San Francisco last year, while walking and waiting for the light to change at a crosswalk my friend said “the cars will all stop for us if we walk even though they have a green light” I said “no sir” and he walked right in front of 2 lanes of oncoming cars. To my surprise they all stopped calmly! I am still amazed he wasn’t run over. He said people there are so pedestrian friendly because they themselves are pedestrians a lot of the time, only using cars for long trips. If this had happened in Denver he would probably have been hit and there easily could have been a car accident. However, More and more frequently, (mostly in the suburbs and mountain towns) I have been seeing “yield to pedestrians” “It’s a State Law” signs in Colorado. Why have very few of these signs made it into the city where population density and pedestrian traffic is much greater? Every time I want to stop for a pedestrian crossing the street, I’m afraid of being rear ended.

  4. Annals of Walking – 2 « Price Tags September 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

    […] An essay by Gosia Kung: Through evolution humans became pedestrians. The scientists study the connection between “feet and head” and how the development of people as walkers and runners effected the development of our brains. We all know this feeling, when we pace around the room in search for a solution to a problem or go for a walk to ‘clear our head’. The connection between the brain and the feet is clear. […]

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