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Are elevators bad?

So, I of course think this is silly. But here’s a claim that living in high-rises — that is, buildings with elevators — is bad for people’s physical and mental health:

In the midst of a Vancouver civic election where housing is a hot issue, Vancouver councillor and mayoral candidate Colleen Hardwick stated that “highrises are not good for people’s physical and mental health.”

Last week we asked Hardwick to expand further on her views about health and building types. She told The Tyee she believes highrises radically reduce chance encounters between people because they separate people from the street and from each other.

“Ground-oriented housing typologies are ideal,” she said, referring to housing that allows a resident to reach their place of residence using stairs, perhaps, but not an elevator.

Apparently what happens when you get into an elevator is that you immediately lose your ability to interact meaningfully with other humans. Yeah, I’m not the only one who disagrees:

“Coun. Hardwick is cherry-picking her data” about highrise living and the isolating effects of structures with elevators, accused urbanist and author Charles Montgomery. A six-storey building with an elevator, he told The Tyee, is “the most social place I’ve ever lived.”

Cities, it turns out, are complicated. And there are always trade-offs to be made. During the pandemic, some people thought it would be nice to live in a ground-oriented home in the country and now they are realizing that the country lacks things like amenities and, you know, other people.

Personally, I will happily take an elevator over a soul-crushing commute to a home without one. I also agree with Charles that multi-family buildings can be very social.

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