Playfulness is something most of us don’t always experience every day. But remember that first bike ride you took as a child when you could speed past adults? That kind of joy is something we can choose for ourselves now as grownups. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the happiest mode of transport for commuters was cycling. And as we return to work, creating more playful cities is more important than ever.
Heading out on two wheels is the perfect way to connect with the city, with its neighborhoods, and with ourselves. Here in Berlin, one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, there’s nothing like a nocturnal ride past the city’s great monuments without all the tourists and traffic, or lying down Friedrichstraße on a Sunday. As a writer and editor who spends most days on a computer, I need to make the time to explore. Doing it by ebike always reveals to me something new about the city, and it injects a little playfulness and spontaneity into my deadline-oriented life, too.
On two wheels, meeting friends at Hasenheide or checking out a new Kreuzberg bar feels like a small holiday (plus, Berlin’s pop-up bike lanes have made it much easier). I can take in the city, rather than just pass through it. The path I take is up to me: I could go anywhere and do anything and be fully in the moment.
Maybe I discover a gallery in an unfamiliar neighborhood or smell something delicious from a pop-up restaurant or even pass through a new park. On an ebike, we’re free to experience – and play. The best cities empower us to be spontaneous and unpredictable, to turn right instead of left and see what awaits. Playful cities help us live in the moment, to be open.
This freedom to make connections with both the cities we live in and the people living in them are part of what makes a livable city. Livable cities are happier cities, which we need now, more than ever. And we can make it happen: Happy cities are no accident but created by design.
After all, we live in cities for more than just work. We move to cities to participate in culture, to help shape the future, and to have fun. Ideal cities offer free museums, plenty of green spaces, and places to play, like skateparks — and offer infrastructure to move from A to B joyfully.