In Australian suburban streets, Halloween is the day that shows us what is possible. Neighbourhoods become places where people take priority over cars. On this day, people get to see what a truly walkable suburb looks like, as throngs of families flood their local streets to explore, admire decorations, door knock, catch up and eat too much sugar.
When people are out walking on the streets in large numbers, those people driving think twice about their driving speed. With children regularly crossing the street, drivers are more wary. And those on foot feel entitled to walk on the roadway. This is what we deserve to have everyday on our streets.
Halloween shows us how valuable walkability is. Kids delight in exploring their local streets on foot. Every kid prefers trick or treating over having an equivalent Halloween party confined to a backyard. So despite the unhealthy food, we should thank the United States for giving us this holiday.
Community connections are strengthened as locals bump into each other, with space and time to stop and say hello. A healthy street is one where you regularly meet people you know, without planning to meet them.
The streets where trick-or-treaters congregate are those with shady trees, wide footpaths, far away from loud, fast-moving cars and, of course, with lots of spooky decorations.
In highly walkable cities elsewhere in the world, everyday feels like Halloween (minus the ghosts, zombies and chocolate) as communities live and thrive in the public space of their residential streets. This can’t happen if we all travel in cars. If we are prepared to lower speed limits, redesign street crossings and intersections, upgrade our footpaths, build appropriate building density and improve regulations, we can have a little bit of Halloween everyday in Sydney.