Walk This Way
Places that discriminate against walking feed the national obesity
epidemic. How can designers turn things around?
By Andrea Oppenheimer Dean
The doc [Surgeon General Richard Carmona] and I are going to encourage
all our country to either run or walk or swim or bicycle, for the
good of their families, for the good of their own health, and for
the good of the health of the nation.” That was President
George W. Bush announcing his “Healthier U.S.” initiative
last year. It recommends that Americans incorporate 30 minutes of
regular physical activity, such as walking or biking, into their
Photo by Dan Burden,
Walkable Communities, Inc.
The trouble is that most of us live in postwar suburbs designed
to make walking difficult, if not dangerous. Distances between home
and work, home and school, home and shopping are too great. Four-
and six-lane highways, engineered for automobiles and often without
sidewalks, cut through our towns and subdivisions. Just crossing
the road may well require that you get into your car. Many who live
in such suburbs see no obvious reason to walk anywhere.
There is a reason, though; it has to do with health and welfare.
For one thing, according to ASLA President Paul Morris, FASLA, the
baby boomers are getting older, and although they may be driving
farther today for shopping and errands (since 1969, 88 percent farther
for shopping and 137 percent farther for family and personal errands,
according to the Surface Transportation Policy Project), they’ll
drive less as they age. Many will be unable to drive at all, and
those trapped in unwalkable communities will lose their independence.
“Seniors want to be able to walk comfortably and safely. A
majority would prefer to age in place and live in downtowns where
they have access to many things,” says Morris.
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