Road rage vs healing trails

Even after a few minutes in heavy traffic many drivers show signs of road rage. Something that also increase their risk of heart attacks, accidents and stress – Compare that to walking a few minutes in nature and the exact opposite is more likely to happen

Driving vs walking

drawing of a lot of cars, seen from the driving seat
Change the logic of cars, go walking instead

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt. Hiking.org

Walking on trails away from traffic helps us relax and also reduce both stress, risk of heart attacks – and even of accidents, as aggression and fear evaporate to leave us more clear headed

Drawing of a landscapes with towns and places connected with hiking trails. illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
hiking trails connecting villages in the landscapes

But how can it be that walking in nature often work to calms us down, while sitting in a car is more likely to make us aggressive?  And what can we do to promote walking instead of driving?

Road rage

drawing of a man in red sports car looking angry. Car rage illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
Road rage comes in several forms and both men and women experience it – and can walk away from it by leaving their cars

According to experts road rage comes in two forms: cold and hot. When facing an threat, we either explode or implode in cars.

Bad news is that both have a very damaging influence on our ability to respond, navigate and steer through difficult situations, especially at high speeds.

The challenge is that even though we are sitting still behind the wheel, our bodies react as if we can muscle our way out of the challenge, pumping hormones and blood as if preparing for a fight or run situation…

But unable to move, or to talk to the other drivers, to clear misunderstandings, we are limited to yell or bite our teeth, provoking, complaining and often end up using the cars as a heavy, and sometimes deadly power-showing tool.

Trail healing

Drawing of a woman smiling and walking
Walking to feel good

  Something very different from road rage happens when we walk on trails away from traffic.

Our heart rate stabilize, our breath and stress level falls and we feel more relaxed, balanced and clear headed. Even our ability to relate and connect to the surroundings re-establish itself.

Drawing of a hiker camping between to trees, watching the sunset
In strange ways, taking a break, can move you

Walking in nature works so well that countless studies have showed how it both prolongs life, and boosts innovation, thrive and health. To walk is simply one of the best documented cures against countless things from stress to heart attacks… it even has a positive effect on feelings as different as lack of inspiration, loneliness, rage and depression.

Replacing road rage with trail healing

Hiker throwing car keys, car saying make a you turn? - Drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Breaking up with your car is hard to do…

Knowing that walking is so much better for us than driving, maybe a good question is why we walk less and less and drive more and more in cars today?

In my opinion this is at least about two things: First how we often do our best to avoid using physical energy. And second how we have designed our cities and places for driving instead of walking.

Seeing walking a privilege and avoiding driving

Drawing of man and child in car, dreaming about walking instead
Seeing walking as attractive

The first is a challenge for each of us, changing our habits, routines and understandings to include walking in what we consider privileges. Walking should be considered a bonus, a gift and a way to connect better. It takes an effort, but so often I hear old walkers say, if they should change anything in how they lived their younger lives… They would have walked more.

Designing places for walking creates better thrive and less road rage

Drawing of a street with driving cars as the logic one one side (grey and no thrive ) and walking as the logic on the other side ( green and filled with life )
Illustration of a city designed for cars and driving vs. a city designed for walking and thrive

A huge trend today in what is called livable cities states that when architects and city-planners have formed cities and places in the last 50 years they have placed too much focus has been on cars and roads.

Instead new research show that when cities are walkable people will prefer to walk – and walking, on a city scale, benefits everything from thrive, to health, to relationships,  to local shops and cafés.  There is now a well-established framework for how to design for walkability.

Designing for walking even helps to make cities more sustainable and climate resilient

Two city planners adding ingredients to a recipe for a good city. putting trees, people and houses in while a man with tie propose them to add a wheelbarrow of cars. illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt
The recipe for a liveable city is a lot about walkability, urban ecology and interesting cityscapes

In recent years, not only health and thrive is in focus for city designers and architects.  Huge new climate and sustainability challenges are today among some of the largest threats to both our health, communities and cities on both a local and global scale.

The good news is that making more sidewalks and trails even creates benefits for the environment, for nature and helps us reduce our carbon footprint.

The best way to deal with car rage might simply be to walk – and to make our places more walkable

drawing of a hiking trail to a lighthouse
Connecting the cities of tomorrow along trails

The more people walk the better they feel and the more healthy they will become. And the less traffic jams, pollution… and road rage there will be.

Keywords: Hiking, outdoors, feelings, emotions, walkable cities, livability, anger, roadrage, aggression, cars, driving, trails, trailhealing, trail design, hiking.org

Hiking.org story by Frits Ahlefeldt. Drawing up how hiking can help us understand reality in new ways

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