enRoute: ‘The Happy City

When you boil it down to the basic elements, the metrics of a place’s success answers the question, ‘Are the people happy?’ To some researchers, this is more science than art, as explained in Air Canada’s enRoute article, The Happy City. City mayors are making sweeping changes, most of which center on replacing cars with grand public third places.

University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, who studies happiness and social connections, states that frequency of positive interaction is the key, so the more we meet outside of our cars, the kinder and gentler we’re likely to become.

Some examples:

Paris: Mayor Bertrand Delanoë founded the Paris Beach, will ban all suburban cars from the city core by 2012 and provided 20,000 virtually free bikes downtown.

Bogota, Colombia: Its mayor legislated the transformation of roads into parks and pedestrian “freeways.”

Mexico City’s mayor is also lobbying for investment in urban beaches and bikeways, Seoul replaced downtown freeway with parks and streams, and London implemented congestion charges to limit cars downtown.

Mental well being is also the purpose behind the new car-less city of Mandar, profiled in this recent entry.