Lawrence Frank of the University of British Columbia has been studying the impact of urban design on heath. An engineer and number cruncher, Frank has demonstrated strong links between neighborhood design and physical activity.
While at Georgia Tech Frank founded the SMARTRAQ project that the city of Atlanta undertook when the feds threatened an end to highway funding until they got their air quality back in control. Not suprisingly, the outer suburbs are a health disaster in the making; people who live a bit closer in get more exercise with downtown dwellers getting the most. So much for mowing the lawn and working in the garden, if you have to drive around all the time.
Writes Oregonian journalist Jeff Mapes in the thought-provoking chapter on public health in his recent book, Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are changing American Cities : It’s easy to see why time spent in a car can affect fitness, looking at some of the eye-popping numbers in SMARTRAQ. Between 1982 and 1997, Atlanta added 1.3 million people by urbanizing about one acre of land for every two new residents. In that period of time, the average miles driven per day doubled – to thirty-four miles. Residents in the in the region’s outer counties were spending an average of 72 minutes in a car, often in congested stop-and-go driving.