A few weeks ago I woke up to a video in my social media feed about the rat race we are living in. If you haven’t seen the video yet, here it is. In fact the before night I was at an event listening to the story of a start-up’s story of their rise. It included a lot of the classic Hollywood elements like him sleeping in his office and him being in debt by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While the story was certainly inspiring. The underlying premise was terrifying, here was a guy that was trying to start a company to actually bring some good in the world and this is how we were treating him.
Are you tired of living in this rat race? This rat race video and the entrepreneur’s story really brought me back to the question about how we invest our resources and whether there is anything we could do to end this rat race and transform it into a relaxed stroll.
Amsterdam is consistently considered one of the happiest places. Yet it is built predominantly around the bicycle. What gives?
Back in the 70’s when they started to transition to the automobile like everyone else they said no and over the last 40 years they transformed themselves back into a city for people. Cornelia Dinca and Thomas Schlijper from Amsterdam have put together a great documentation of Amsterdam’s transformation from its car oriented past here.
Building a car oriented city increases the amount you have to earn in order to live comfortably, contributing to the rat race and this is whether or not you drive or not. A car is an expensive and depreciating investment (over $10,000 per year). Building a city around the automobile makes it more difficult for local businesses to thrive. Roads built primarily around moving the most vehicles through as quickly as possible are also expensive, putting a strain on city budgets. The cost for maintaining this system is passed onto all of us with higher taxes with a diminishing return with a less livable city and fewer great destinations.
If you choose to opt of this rat race, even slightly less, you still pay for it. We all pay for it through the parking, through the piping and roads in the far edge suburbs. And what has all of this infrastructure solved, nothing it seems as our roads are still bumper to bumper in rush hour despite adding more and more lanes.
I like that this video addresses that we are stuck in a rat race, but it doesn’t address what the alternative looks like. So what does real happiness look like.
This is getting enough rest and having time to enjoy even just sitting still without anxiety. This is about enjoying your city without worrying about your phone or the need to buy something.
This is about connecting with your neighbours and acquaintances. This is spending time your loved ones.
This is about chatting with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
This is the laughter or a smile from your child.
This is a mobility system safe enough that you don’t have a second job acting as your child’s chauffeur.
For women this means you can comfortably navigate your own city safely without the need for a $10,000 a year accessory (a car).
This is about not worrying about the safety of your children being run over or killed in a vehicle collision (vehicles are one of the top causes of child fatalities.)
All of this starts at the street level. We can change our streets to create a more enjoyable experience while you go about your daily business: work, live, play.
How about instead of designing our streets and neighbourhoods around speed to support this rat race we slow things down so that we can enjoy and connect with our own neighbourhoods and those living in them? It is time to transform this rat race into a relaxed stroll. Not only will our wallets thank us for it but we will get to enjoy our city more instead of having to go on vacation to find those experiences. If you want to improve your bottom line and create a more enjoyable city Slow Streets would be more than willing to help you achieve that.