In this article I talk about why, unlike in Europe, many people in the US do not walk more. I used to think it was laziness until I visited southern Europe. I live in the U.S. where 2/3 of adults are overweight or obese. But in Spain, France, Italy, Montenegro, and Greece, I was astounded to see sidewalks crowded with pedestrians, in contrast to the empty sidewalks in America. And almost nobody was overweight.
It’s easy to see why. Sure, people drive in Europe and city traffic is often bad like in the U.S. But gas costs the equivalent of $6 to $8 per gallon. Shops don’t have parking lots, so you have to find street parking or pay to use a public lot, and then walk, maybe a km or more. There are whole shopping districts dozens of blocks long that are closed to vehicles without delivery permits. The streets are filled with people, not cars. There is no Americans with Disabilities Act, so you will find lots of steps to climb.
There are only a few places in the U.S., like Boston and New York City, where you can get around without a car. But all of Europe is like that. Electric trains between major cities run every 20 minutes. Buses and subways every 5 minutes. In my home town area of Melbourne and Palm Bay Florida, with 100,000 people, we do have bus service that is free for residents, subsidized at a cost of $18 per passenger. It only runs every 2 hours, and not at all after 5 PM or on weekends. The windows are covered so you can’t tell that the buses are usually empty.
Europe makes walking practical by packing the places you want to go closer together. By eliminating parking lots, you can put twice as many buildings in the same area. Also there are no suburbs and no big front yards wasted on growing a crop that nobody eats. Even the highways lack medians and shoulders. There are no restrictive zoning laws that force you to live far away from where you shop, work, or eat. So it’s easy to walk there instead.
It is the perverse nature of our lifestyle in the U.S. that most pedestrians are not actually going to a destination, or that you drive somewhere to exercise. By not exercising, you save time and money. In Europe, it’s the opposite. People exercise as part of life.
Read Strategies for Fitness, Diet, and Longevity, for many great ideas on how to stay healthy.