Walkable neighborhoods and subways may be why Washington DC is a leader in fighting obesity.

Luke Hogan's picture

A New York Times article about the American obesity epidemic suggests that smart city planning can impact the health of residents. Of course, merely sitting on a train doesn't make people thin (although I think many of us wish it would!). According to the article, "studies have shown that compared with people who drive, those who use public transportation tend to be thinner because it involves more walking." It seems like we shouldn't need a study to prove that walking makes people thin, but if you look at the way cities have been (and unfortunately continue to be) designed throughout much of the US and the World in the past century, maybe this kind of study is just what the doctor ordered. 

The article also talks about the food people eat as an important element to the obesity equation. It just so happens that we are devoting a large portion of next year's Congress to food issues such as access to fresh, healthy, locally grown vegetables. The theme of the Congress, "Growing Local", is largely about the relationship of food to the places we live in.

What I am trying to say here is that this New York Times article is just another example of how relevant our work is to the health and well-being of society. Good transit, walkable communities, and good food are not only my idea of a great way to live. They are the future of a sustainable and healthy society and are something that we as CNU members work on everyday. 

Washington, D.C. didn't just become walkable on its own. Public officials, planners, architects, engineers, citizens, and an array of other professionals have worked hard to make it the great place it is today. A Charter Award winning plan for Columbia Heights, a neighborhood that has seen its share of challenges over the past few decades, addressed many of these issues. 

If you want to find out more about this topic you are in luck. CNU 18 in Atlanta was all about health. You can view nearly every session from CNU18 to get yourself inspired and get your community on its feet, on the train, and to the farmer's market. 


Like "traffic" and "weather," walking and transit go together

Borrowed that from a Fountains of Wayne song, but it's am important point that's often overlooked. As you say, transit involves more than sitting on a train or bus. Transit works best in very specific settings — convenient urban neighborhoods in cities or suburbs where no one lives too far from transit stops and where compact blocks, not culs-de-sacs, make these stops easily reachable. People are most likely to use transit when it connects one walkable, mixed-use neighborhood to another. They walk between transit and a range of nearby destinations and — voila — as Dr. Howard Frumkin of the CDC has said repeatedly, they get regular exercise and see their likelihood of developing obesity drop. 



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