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Cities healthy for cars, unhealthy for people

Original headline: “City Sleekers”
Dana Perrigan, SF Chronicle
Where we live plays an important role in how much we exercise and in how healthy we are
The next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather and need some medical advice, don’t call a doctor.

Call a real estate developer.

“In many ways,” Dr. Richard Jackson said, “they have more of an impact on the health of the nation than all of us doctors wagging our fingers.”

A pediatrician, professor and one of the nation’s leading experts in the field of public health, Jackson isn’t referring to the diagnostic capabilities of developers. He’s referring to the powerful — and often overlooked — impact the communities they build have on the health of those who live in them.

Since World War II, said Jackson from his office in UC Berkeley’s University Hall, the majority of communities have been built for cars instead of people. What may have been good for the cars, however, turns out to be bad for people: The rate of obesity and diabetes among U.S. citizens has reached epidemic proportions. Twenty-two percent of school-age children are obese. The number of stomach-stapling surgeries is growing faster than any other procedure. Ten percent of U.S. citizens have Stage II diabetes. Depression is the nation’s most prevalent disorder.
(20 Aug 2006)

Building the New Urbanism

Erica Ryberg, Smithsonian Magazine
Urban planners take a cue from pre-WWII cities and towns.
It takes Kiki Wallace one minute to get to work. It’s no accident. He built his neighborhood, Prospect New Town, to be walkable, with wide sidewalks, narrow streets and parks scattered throughout. Most notably, its town center is within five walking minutes of every home.

To create Prospect, the Longmont, Colorado, developer worked with star planners Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Since its construction, the town has attracted a great deal of interest in the planning community. “We have people from all over the state of Colorado and from other parts of the United States and internationally coming to look at it,” said Wallace. “They’re all wanting to emulate this type of development.”

Post-World War II-style suburban planning assumes that everyone has a car and wants to use it. This model, some urban planners believe, is what accounts for the growing epidemic f obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Now, a growing number of environmentalists, architects and urban planners, including Duany and Plater-Zyberk, are putting their minds together to create human-scale neighborhoods, where parks, shops and schools are all close enough to walk or bike to. They are part of the New Urbanist movement, the most coordinated effort in this country to create these kinds of neighborhoods. “New Urbanism is basically a set of principles to get to that holy grail of a mixed-use, mixed-income, fully socially integrated, non-automobile-dependent kind of place,” said Emily Talen, a professor of urban planning and author of New Urbanism and American Planning: The Conflict of Cultures.
(no date. Aug 2006?)

Eco-friendly small-town America

Sarah Gardner, Marketplace (American Public Media)
Small cities are demanding higher energy efficiency standards and not just in “green” pockets of the country like California or the Pacific Northwest. Sarah Gardner visits one such town, deep in the heart of Red America.
(23 Aug 2006)