Even in a dense city like Paris, which has more than 21,000 residents per square mile, the concept as laid out by the Hidalgo campaign group Paris en Commun is bold. Taken at a citywide level, it would require a sort of anti-zoning—“deconstructing the city” as Hidalgo adviser Carlos Moreno, a professor at Paris-Sorbonne University, puts it. “There are six things that make an urbanite happy” he told Liberation. “Dwelling in dignity, working in proper conditions, [being able to gain] provisions, well-being, education and leisure. To improve quality of life, you need to reduce the access radius for these functions.” That commitment to bringing all life’s essentials to each neighborhood means creating a more thoroughly integrated urban fabric, where stores mix with homes, bars mix with health centers, and schools with office buildings.

Intergenerational upward economic mobility—the opportunity for children from poorer households to pull themselves up the economic ladder in adulthood—is a hallmark of a just society. In the United States, there are large regional differences in upward social mobility. The present research examined why it is easier to get ahead in some cities and harder in others. We identified the “walkability” of a city, how easy it is to get things done without a car, as a key factor in determining the upward social mobility of its residents.

Parking spaces are everywhere, but for some reason the perception persists that there’s “not enough parking.” And so cities require parking in new buildings and lavishly subsidize parking garages, without ever measuring how much parking exists or how much it’s used.

A walkable street ensures that people can safely cross from a clothing store to a coffee shop and spend money at both. It means that people who live in the neighborhood can grab groceries and other necessities easily, so they’ll probably visit nearby establishments more often. Perhaps most importantly, a walkable street is one in which many businesses occupy the bulk of the land, meaning that dozens of destinations can be accessed in a matter of minutes on foot, and that every inch of land is put to economically productive use — not squandered in empty parking lots or unnecessary landscaping.

In suburban sprawl, you’re doomed to spending vast amounts of time at the wheel–time you cannot do much else with, and which you won’t get back. The nature of low-density automobile sprawl cities is that everything is insanely far away from everything else, so no matter what you do, you’re doomed to driving vast distances to see most friends, to commute to work and so on.

“We studied neighborhoods ranging in socioeconomic-status and culture. Those built with more activity-supportive environmental features had residents who did more physical activity. For example, transit access is a requirement for living a lifestyle that is less car-dependent and more active because it increases walking to and from the transit facility,” said James Sallis, PhD, lead study investigator and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“Japan’s population continues to be concentrated in Tokyo,” Ishiba said. “This concentration in the nation’s capital of people, products and wealth is likely the world’s most dangerous situation.”

Transportation experts have repeatedly found that building new roads inevitably encourages more people to drive, which in turn negates any congestion savings—a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

Not only are people more likely to walk around in cityscapes with open and lively façades, but the kinds of things that they do in such places actually change. They pause, look around and absorb their surroundings while in a pleasant state of positive affect and with a lively, attentive nervous system. Because of these kinds of influences, they actually want to be there. And because of such effects, many cities have carefully designed building codes for new construction that dictate some of the contributing factors to happy and lively façades: in cities such as Stockholm, Melbourne and Amsterdam, building codes specify that new construction cannot simply be parachuted into place. There is a hard lower limit on the number of doorways per unit of sidewalk length, and there are specifications for transparency between the building and street in the form of clear windows with two-way views.

The German city of Hamburg has announced plans to become car-free within the next two decades. It is an ambitious idea, but city officials obviously feel that the personal motorcar does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot.

The goal of Hamburg’s project is to replace roads with a “gruenes netz” or a green network of interconnected open areas covering 40% of the city. According to the official website, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries will be connected to form a network, which will allow people to navigate through the city without the use of cars.

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