By Matt Parker
In the last 75 years, humans have done everything to keep from walking. Now, walking is cool, with "walkability" becoming a buzz word in real estate. Whodathunkit?
In today’s real estate market, adults buy homes and pay attention to a nifty analytic attached to the homes they might buy - walkability. In short, something is walkable if you can get everything you need, including food, health and physical social connection, if your car broke down for a week. It turns out that walkability may be just as important for kids, having even more profound effects.
Walkability means proximity to certain places (like a park) as well as agreeable paths to them: walkable neighborhoods should have sidewalks for safety, vegetation for aesthetic, trees for cooling effects in the summer and perceived safety. After all, what good is having a park across the street if the street is a freeway and you can’t cross it?
If you don’t think it’s safe to walk near your house, you certainly won’t let your children do it. If you think they stand a risk of being hit by speeding cars on your street, you will definitely deny touch football there. If you are worried about a certain alley that your children have to pass to get to the candy store, gone are summer popsicles.
So when you’re considering a property, ask yourself about the perceived safety on the streets near the house? Not the actual safety, but your perception of it. Can you see your kids playing in the yard through the windows in the kitchen? Can you see them in the neighbor’s yard? If not, you may be worried about where you send them. You can decide whether or not your current or new house is walkable just by thinking about how you feel when you walk near it. Certainly, if you don’t feel safe walking to the store or park, you won’t let your kids do it.
Why is this important? Kids don’t get enough exercise. Fifteen minutes of exercise a day is all most doctors recommend. This is one walk around the block with Fido…if you think it is safe. This makes kids fitter, more likely to eat healthy, more focused at school, and more energetic.
Increasingly, kids are not getting enough time with their parents - especially their dads. Is a father more likely to put in a little “catch” with his daughter if he has to drive her 20 minutes through stoplights, or if he can do it in a pocket park four doors down? Clearly, if it’s easy, we do it. Walkable neighborhoods with walkable streets and parks make it easy to play, and when we play, we do it more.
Studies haven’t conclusively shown exactly what overexposure to electronics does to children’s growth yet, but, they agree less is better. So with several children, do you send them down a busy street, past a dark alley and through a drainage ditch to play? Definitely not. In that case, they play catch on a smartphone with a pixelated bird. Walkability matters—to adults and to kids. No matter what your budget, you may want to put it higher on your priority lists than stainless steel appliances.