Regularly walking and biking are good for one’s health, but did you know taking public transit is too? That’s right just by not taking a car to work like most North Americans you can be healthier. A simple life change can have a large impact on your life, plus by not using a car you can save the lungs of your neighbours and improve your city. Urban designers and doctors are starting to take this into consideration when talking about personal health and cities.
An efficient, affordable transit network is one key to better health. This can be as basic as a solid bus service, or can include a plethora of enhanced bus options and rail. Whatever the system, people who use transit “get more than three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who don’t,” just by walking to and from it, according to TransLoc – 19 minutes of exercise daily versus six minutes for those who don’t use transit.
Transit also reduces air pollution, making everyone healthier. Not to mention that city buses today often have cleaner engines than do cars.
Public transit also causes fewer accidents than individual cars, is far safer, is known to reduce stress, and improves the quality of life for vulnerable populations.
Cities contain the majority of the worlds population and moving that many people is a challenge, to say the least. Each city has its own design and plan for public transportation and some are clearly better than others. Wendover Productions tackles this question and provides some nice insights into what makes a city a good place for public transit. The video ends with a nice snapshot of the kinds of success that public transit can bring to cities. One example is that Portland has seen an estimated 5 billion dollars in development thanks to their streetcar network.
We often look at urban design on Things Are Good so it’s worth thinking about how we got here. The decisions made centuries ago impact how our cities operate and how we as people integrate ourselves into the built environment. This video explores how and why cities in Europe look different than North American cities, which means they have different issues that need to be addressed in the 21st century. There is much to learn from how different places deal with problems and thinking about how we can apply their solutions elsewhere.
Why do Americans love suburbs and Europeans love city centers? How is it possible that Paris is denser than New York City? Why are the fanciest hotel rooms in Europe on the first floor? Welcome to the weird world of urban geography.
The suburbs are massive urban design problem because they have a large footprint. The footprint is evident in the energy inefficiencies present in suburban design from sprawl to increased costs. To reduce the footprint and build more environmentally friendly neighbourhoods will cost a lot and some people are debating whether or not we should just give up on the suburbs.
The anti-retrofit movement is missing the bigger picture, in order to lessen the damage of sprawl on the planet we need to modify these sprawling neighbourhoods.
New Urbanism was launched a quarter century ago by a committed group of multidisciplinary professionals seeking to reverse the worst social, economic, and environmental impacts of sprawl. New urbanists, as a group, will never “let sprawl be sprawl.”
“Drivable suburban,” areas, otherwise known as sprawl, make up about 95 percent of the land in US metro areas (built, amazingly, in less than a century), according to research by Christopher Leinberger. The rest, about five percent, is “walkable urban” — historic neighborhoods and street grids.
Improving walkable urban areas and revitalizing run-down neighborhoods are critical projects for new urbanists, but we can’t leave the other 95 percent alone. It has too much impact on people’s health, social lives, and the economies of communities. The Charter of the New Urbanism speaks to the entire built environment—not just historic street grids.