The need for walkable neighborhoods

The need for walkable neighborhoods is greater than ever. It’s not just a nice thing to have – it’s become a matter of life and death.

According to a June 25 article in The Atlantic Cities, “America is facing an alarming epidemic. In 1960, fewer than one in 10 American children were overweight or obese, but today, that number is one in four. Formerly very rare (and very serious) childhood diseases like Type 2 diabetes have become increasingly common.

It’s not just kids who are being affected: a quarter of adults are now obese, way up from one in 10 in 1990. That’s contributing to soaring health costs – over $190 billion a year, or 20 percent of all health care spending, according to a recent Cornell University study.”

There are lots of factors responsible for the obesity epidemic but  there is evidence that adults and children are so dependent on automobile travel due to the design of their neighborhoods.

In Cortland County we don’t have the suburban tracts that are mostly cited but we do have rural areas where having a car is the only mode of transportation. Walking and bicycling are pretty much non-existent, due to safety concerns – lack of sidewalks and bike lanes and the longer distances to get anywhere.

Even in the city where we have walkable neighborhoods, it is still a challenge to get people to think about walking or biking – to work, or to go to a friends house, or to do errands.

We were so heartened to see that two employees at the County Office Building were continuing their walks to work after starting during the Bike/Walk to Work Week in May. What does it take to get people out of their cars – to move towards a healthier lifestyle? What more should we be doing?

Jan

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