City planner Jeff Speck has a big idea for how America can be more economically resilient, more environmentally sustainable, and a whole lot healthier: make our cities more walkable,Jeff Speck: The walkable city and the people in them less dependent on cars. In today’s talk, Speck takes a close look at suburban sprawl — and the many unexpected effects it’s had. “I believe that this American healthcare crisis we’ve all heard about is an urban design crisis, and that the design of our cities can be a cure,” he says.
Speck is the author of the book Walkable City, all about how thriving downtowns can transform both people and the environment. We asked him to pick some of the cities in the world he’s found the most delightful to explore on foot. He qualifies his picks saying, “These lists are silly and inevitably wrong, but here are the places that I’ve been to and that I’ve enjoyed walking around the most.”
- Venice, Italy. Proof that cities really are better without cars — also without (too many) tourists. To be avoided April through September.
- Amsterdam, Netherlands. Yes, I’ve got a thing for canals — and bicycles. Much safer once you’ve learned how to avoid stepping into either.
- Marrakech, Morocco. The one hitch to navigating this city’s bewildering medina is to know that, unlike almost everywhere else walkable, Arab urbanism includes dead ends — the result of families joining houses across streets.
- Antigua, Guatemala. Along with San Miguel de Allende (and Marrakech), it is a triumph of the Courtyard House type, so each doorway reveals a hidden world. Trespassers delight.
- Quebec City, Canada. In winter, it ties with New Orleans in summer. Proof that good urbanism begets walking whatever the weather.
This post originally ran on September 9, 2013. It was updated on October 14, as Speck’s talk appeared on TED.com.