could the way our modern neighborhoods are configured be contributing to the increase in national obesity? Allison Arieff of By Design investigates:This is an intriguing concept—I first heard about in a college Anthropology class—
First, let’s talk about cars. Stop designing for them. Natural light, floor plans that are conducive to human patterns of use — these sorts of things should be the defining features of homes. Not a garage. There’s almost no viable excuse for failing to create communities with within-walking-distance amenities like playgrounds, cafes and corner markets. Take inspiration from Inspirada: Even Las Vegas, that bastion of architectural absurdity, has opened a New Urbanist community. Though it seems to lack any viable form of public transportation (and includes “Da Vinci Estates” and “Van Gogh Homes”), it has been designed around public parks and community centers, has promised to deliver walkable retail and business centers, and has even planned a central village, called Civitas, meant to promote civic behavior (the definition of which I am not clear, given that it’s in Las Vegas)…I’ve seen this first hand. My parents live in a rural-suburban area. Just going to buy a newspaper is at least a fifteen minute drive and most people in their neighbor stay locked up in there houses. No walking to the park, no local market, no nothing—worrisome.
…Contrary to popular belief, the pace and proximity of urban living can actually contribute to more healthful lifestyles, while lower-density communities tend to have a higher incidence of cardiovascular and lung diseases, including asthma in children, as well as cancer, diabetes, obesity, traffic injuries and deaths; these are exacerbated by an increase in air pollution, gridlock and traffic accidents, and by a lack of physical activity. The study recommended that people seek out cities and towns with reliable public transportation systems, bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths, ones that have schools, businesses and stores within walking distance.