Charles Montgomery has turned his research and writing talents to urban design and written a book that is fascinating from cover to cover. Casting his net around the world, he has pulled in examples of some of the most people-friendly places to live. These are places that are paying attention to the needs of walkers and cyclists and are creating community gathering places that transform urban anonymity into city friendliness.
The good news is that retrofitting cities is not the economic drag most people think. It actually leads to economic gain, social equity, and an improvement in overall health. Montgomery makes a strong case for urban design as a means of shaping human behaviour. The cities he describes are places I would want to live.
I nibbled this book one small section at a time. Since I live in the downtown core of my small city, I had the chance to take my usual walks with eyes open to possibilities. Fortunately, our city planners seem to be onside with much of what Montgomery praises in this book, but we have a long way to go before we adopt enough of these ideas to make this a truly pedestrian- and bike-friendly place. I’m lucky to live where I can walk to nearly everything, but most of our city residents are still too far from shopping, services and recreation to lure them out of their cars. The Happy City gives me hope that one day we can all live in cities that enhance our quality of life.