The finale of the “Creating Walkable Communities” series presented originally by the Surgeon General attempts to outline the “HOW” in tackling obstacles within communities to promote walking. The list includes community design, programming and policy-driven solutions.
When designing a developing community, a more “walkable” community includes smaller blocks, sidewalks that are well connected and direct and convenient pathways that lead to essentials like schools, convenient/grocery stores and healthcare facilities such as walk-in clinics and family practitioners. Safety in these ideal communities clearly separate pedestrians from bikers from vehicles. Healthy communities have smart, planned street lighting and reduced traffic speeds separate lanes with medians.
Community programming is beneficial and can be implemented through making easy access to parks schools, and promoting fitness and recreation within the community. A perfect example of programming is the durable exercise equipment added to Mill Creek Park in midtown Kansas City and along the Tomahawk Creek Trail in south Johnson County. Creating variety along these convenient, pedestrian-friendly thoroughways helps create better balanced fitness programming and once person is seen using it, the threat of scary equipment lessens. It’s almost contagious!
Programming can also include organizing small groups of people to meet outdoors, increasing enjoyment and safety while improving their sense of wellness. Social support is shown in research to increase levels of physical activity.
Community fusion between several sectors are crucial in creating active environments. Land Use, Transportation, Community Design (parks, recreation, fitness, etc), Education, Worksite, Non-Profit, Healthcare, Media and Public Health departments are all necessary and vital to making this plan work. “It takes a village” to make a difference and it’s not going to happen by reading the newspaper and talking amongst your friends. City and State officials need to know that there’s a demand for these kind of changes, and they won’t realize the demand unless enough people stand by these healthy changes.
To read more in depth, here is the original document as released by the Surgeon General.