Friday, January 7, 2011

Walkability is a big step toward shaping up a community


When Larry Frank and his partner moved from Atlanta to Vancouver, B.C., they bought a home with the same square footage. But that was about the only similarity.
"The home in Atlanta was in-town but all on one floor," said Frank, a public health and urban design researcher at the University of British Columbia. "It was an urban neighborhood, but we both needed our own car to get anywhere or run errands.
"Our new place is a townhouse near the beach. There are three floors, each small. We go up and down the stairs a lot."
The vertical movement is all to Frank's plan. His academic specialty is linking community design to increased physical activity, which in turn he envisions can help stunt the alarming rate of obesity in the United States.
Frank's townhouse purchase in Vancouver was a "very conscious decision" to literally walk his talk.
"We live in a dense area with so much retail," said Frank. "We take fewer car trips. We sold one car. We use public transportation to get to work and walk to a nearby grocery store and the butcher and fish shop."
Walking, image by aka Kath
But Frank doesn't quite have Atlanta out of his rearview mirror. He is the lead author of an important new study that shows Atlanta residents who live in the most walkable neighborhoods are 2 1/2 times more likely to be physically active than Atlantans who live in the least walkable areas. If a neighborhood even jumped one level in the study's walkability index, it translated to a 30 percent increase in people who were classified as active. The study was published in the Feb. 9 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

more articles about walkability:

Kane County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan

Gentrification in Hamburg: Can Ikea Save a Run-Down Neighborhood?

On Walkability, Density, and Transit Villages

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