The Atlantic cities published an article today arguing that walkability isn’t an amenity, it’s a “matter of life and death.” The article notes the increase in obesity, diabetes and other health issues, then links those problems to the physical design of neighborhoods.
But there’s also evidence of a close correspondence between obesity and unwalkable, car-dependent neighborhoods. People in these neighborhoods are likely to be more sedentary, heavier and less fit, a deadly combination that begins when we are young.
For those over 40, a little experiment is telling. In our talks, we often ask our audiences how many of them walked or biked to school. Most hands usually go up. Then we ask them how many of their kids, grandkids or friends’ kids now walk or bike to school. Almost no hands go up.
Most significantly, the article points out the need to provide more choices for people choosing the kind of neighborhood they want to live in. That’s a very similar argument to the one made by James Bacon when he said that smart growth is a conservative idea. More people, the logic goes, should be able to choose to live in neighborhoods that include public transit, markets, and parks. All of these arguments highlight the need to preserve individual choice — though, as this post from a couple of weeks ago argues, car-dependent neighborhoods waste everyone’s resources, not just those of the neighborhood’s residents.