Last week I visited Dayton, Ohio, to give a talk to planners and public officials about ways citizens can improve their communities, and found it to be a pleasantly surprising city with lively historical neighborhoods and one of the country’s most extensive networks of recreational bike trails as well as economic woes caused by the departure of manufacturing firms.
After my talk, a man from one of Dayton’s suburbs asked me to distill my 24 suggestions—ranging from better public transit to making communities more dog-friendly—down to one or two top priorities.
That’s easy I said: “Give people places where they can connect with one another, which is the essential ingredient for sparking successful plans to improve your community. And the best way to connect people is offer convenient, comfortable, interesting places to walk. No great friendship or brainstorm to change the world ever happened because two people waved at another from behind the steering wheels of their cars. Walking infuses life into a community.”
Walking plays a crucial role in the social and creative development of any city, which is why I always pay close attention to lists of the World’s Best Walking Cities. They're not only fun to but point us in the direction of new ways to make better places to live.
There’s a good new list from Peregrine Adventures, a socially responsible tour operater that has been in business 30 years. They bring a different perspective on what makes a great walking city than lists drawn up by journalists or urban planners. Tokyo, for instance, wins the top spot rather than Copenhagen or Paris.
The emphasis on this list is enjoying yourself, and that is as important to the vitality of a city as worthy goals like the environment and economic opportunity. Here are the winners:
- Esfehan, Iran
- Buenos Aires
- Fes, Morocco
- Cape Town