‘Happy cities need to make spaces for people, not cars’

Happy City book author Charles Montgomery says walking keeps people happier

Published - February 15, 2019 12:46 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

Happy City book author Charles Montgomery of Canada at the Happy Cities Summit 2019 in Vijayawada  on Thursday. Photo: V RAJU / The Hindu

Happy City book author Charles Montgomery of Canada at the Happy Cities Summit 2019 in Vijayawada on Thursday. Photo: V RAJU / The Hindu

Governments that intend to make ‘Happy Cities’ should ensure that priority is given to building public infrastructure for the people rather cars and other private vehicles, said Charles Montgomery, author of the book Happy City from Canada.

In a brief interaction with The Hindu on the sidelines of the Happy Cities Summit 2019 held here on Thursday, Mr. Charles emphasised the need for abundant focus on infrastructure for people of all walks of life.

“Governments around the world typically spend far too much money on space for private automobiles and not enough dedicated space for mass public transportation, pedestrians and children. They need to remember that when building infrastructure, they should be building it for the people, not for cars,” Mr. Charles said.

About the efforts the governments need to turn existing cities with lots of urban problems into happy cities, Mr. Charles said, “It is important to look at the available public spaces that are not being put to best use.” He further said that even in the city there is a wide avenue not used efficiently.

Earlier, addressing the delegates at the summit, Mr. Charles said that roads with no footpaths are more dangerous for people, particularly kids, than a house caught in the fire as drivers mostly respond to the road design and not speed limit posts. Mr. Charles also presented a picture of pedestrians crossing the road on NH outside the venue of the summit (Novotel) and said it is remarkable that there is no pedestrian crossing for hundreds of metres of road and it indicated that for the ones who made a decision people in the cars were more important than pedestrians.

Mr. Charles said the recipe for urban well-being included ingredients like sociability, joy, health, equity, ease, resilience, meaning and belonging and the most important things are a positive social relationship, trust, a strong community which gives people 15 years longer life than the people who are lonely. He said that most of the residents in crowded high-rise residential towers feel lonely while those in colonies are much happier. He said walking to workplaces, schools make people more happier than riding motor vehicles.

By the end of the summit, APCRDA and Amaravati Planning and Design Research Institute signed 10 memorandums of understanding with 100 Resilience Cities, National Institute of Urban Affairs, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, New Cities Foundation, Civic Clap, Switzerland, Women in Cities International and Charles Montgomery.

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