Life is very complicated. But some things seem awfully simple. How do you make a city great? One way to help is to make it easy to walk and provide water. We have an aversion to free stuff as making people lazy, but what if free stuff is to cities like search is to Google? We don't pay for the search, but through our activity and by helping direct us to other stuff we want Google has become one of the best companies in the world - for staff, for shareholders and for us.
Melbourne is one of the best cities in the world. Yesterday I walked along what for my host is his commute. He would zip along the dedicated bike lane. I wandered along the dedicated walking lane. I didn't have to fight a single car. When I got to London, I bought myself a bicycle with the intention of doubling up exercise and my commute. Perhaps I am just chicken, but after one or two rides I decided that I wasn't really up to the car vs. bike debate. In London, it is also a car vs. bus debate and although I backed myself as a pretty good debater in my day, that bus was going to win.
A commute has a huge effect on happiness. We spend a lot of time at work as it is, but we don't tend to include the getting there and back in the calculation. Although my bike plan didn't work out, I eventually switched to the bus rather than the tube. Even though it took a bit longer, being above ground seemed to have a better effect on my mood. But this path along the edge of Port Phillip is pretty spectacular. I imagine it must have pretty much the same effect as doing a half hour of meditation either side of work. Even if you had King Joffrey as your boss, you would probably still come home thinking life is great.
I lived in Putney in London, and there was one option that did make for a rather splendid (best Queen's English) start to the day. Occasionally, when the weather was good, I would hop on the ferry (right by where the Oxford-Cambridge boat race starts) and go along the river to Embankment Pier. This was an awesome way to roll. But it was also quite pricey, and along with the obligatory coffee clearly would start to add up if you did it every day. There used to be a 'Pay Yourself First' spreadsheet tool we put together for people when I worked at Old Mutual that showed just how much those daily treats really cost you. Part of my bus vs. train logic was that I missed the sweet counters. It seemed every day was one where I really deserved a chocolate on the way home. The difference with the Port Phillip commute is it is free. All along the route are water fountains. Also free. And healthy.
There are lots of elections going on around the world with all sorts of crazy politics and shouting. Wouldn't it be awesome if more of the shouting was about walking and water?