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Active Living by Design

by Hank Green on October 25, 2007

walking_living Active Living by Design
The UNC School of Public Health in Chapel Hill has the right approach: The best way to get people to exercise more is to incorporate it into their daily routines. Active Living by Design is the name of the national program they run, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to encourage community design that promotes physical activity.

From Active Living by Design:

There is growing evidence that segregated and spread out land use patterns make walking, biking, transit and other forms of active transportation very difficult, promote automobile dependency and increase health and safety risks for those who are active. A more compact and integrated land use system which is more supportive of active transportation and routine recreational use of parks and greenspace would help make healthy levels of physical activity more attainable for large numbers of people during their daily routine.

The organization is sponsoring 25 community projects nationwide to get people out of their houses, out of their cars, and on their way to a healthier lifestyle. One such project addresses the needs of the people of the HoChunk tribe and citizens of Winnebago, Nebraska. There, commuting pedestrians and cyclists must contend with speeding tractor trailers and cars on U.S. 77 – a road too narrow to accommodate the diverse users. Active Living by Design’s solution, called Wasik Wago (active, or "peppy people" in the tribal language), is to create a network of trails for non-motorized traffic that link commercial centers, residential neighborhoods, and schools.
The first phase of the project is completed and has already had an impact. The initial trail provides 10-foot wide paved paths, landscape design, and traffic signals for bikes. According to Quince Bass, program manager, although many people have flocked to the new trail, children have been the most enthusiastic users. “Each day there are at least 20 to 40 kids out there walking,” says Bass. “They aren’t specifically walking for exercise, but now they have a safe way to get around.”
Our best approach to less car use, a cleaner cooler environment, etc. is in line with Active Living by Design’s mission. We need car-free transportation to be an integral part of our lives, with walking and cycling not marginalized to specific “workout periods.” The added benefit – we get the exercise as part of our daily existence, and not just in chunks of time specifically set aside (and easily skipped when we’re busy).

Related posts:

  1. The Year of Living Car-lessly Experiment
  2. New York City’s Streets Discriminate by Design
  3. Broken Cities on the Mend
  4. Google Transit Plots Car-Free Travel
  5. Quit the Car, Save the Brain!
  6. Recent Posts

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark R. February 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm

As an avid cyclist the first photo only cements my belief that dedicated bike lanes are harmful to cyclist. I still don’t understand why a lot of cyclists insist on having a dedicated lane. The only way I’d agree with bike lanes is if it was set up like the last photo with multiple bike lanes and minimal car traffic, I’m guessing the last photo is Denmark/Netherlands? my experience is 90% of the time bike lanes have cars parked in them forcing cyclists to swerve in the car lane, Bike lanes are full of debris that causes flats and forces cyclists to ride as close to the painted line as possible because of the debris. And these actions then tick off motorists who want to know, and I quote a friend “Why the hell are cyclists driving on the line and crowding me when they have the whole frickin’ bike lane to work with already.”


2 Graham Bergh February 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm

I bike commuted in Portland, Oregon, for 14 years and I think bike lanes work. But Portland had its own dedicated bike planning department and a population that was very pro bike.

That said I’d happily live in a car free world…


3 Mark R. February 28, 2008 at 11:53 pm


Would It surprise you that I’m talking about Bike friendly Austin and surrounding suburbs?

I’d rather have the extra width of the bike lane added to the road without the stripe. That always seems to work best in my opinion and saves a lot of money in paint and re-striping costs.
But thats just my personal preference.


4 Carz Argodd February 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Yes, who, indeed, is Charlie Boyd? Why is he carrying heavy barrels of ashes? Who’s in the incinerator this week?
Where is Adrienne Weisel when we need her most?


5 mrsleep March 7, 2008 at 5:10 pm

With the way most cyclists flaunt and dis-obey the rules of the road, I have NO sympathy for them.

(Note: I do not own a car, I have my feet and my bike.)


6 Lloyd Alter April 4, 2008 at 4:24 pm

just noticed, after a month, “Sometimes the Path is Perlious…” – it is perilous.


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