The Science Is In: The healthiest neighborhoods are both walkable and green

Kaid-BenfieldMost of us, most of the time, don’t make much connection between place – the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play – and our health. Not unless we’re thinking of such obvious local health concerns as an outbreak of infectious disease in the community, serious levels of pollution or toxicity nearby, or perhaps about local health care services and facilities. Absent those kinds of circumstances, we tend to take our neighborhoods for granted when it comes to health. But we shouldn’t, because there is a rapidly growing body of evidence demonstrating that the shape and character of our communities matters a great deal to our health.

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Year End Reflections: Gratitude for Livable Places

As the year draws to a close, reflection is an important rite of passage: celebrating, mourning, learning, and letting go. 2017 has not been the sort of year in which gratitude is the obvious emotion of choice on many levels. Yet the act of searching for what is beneficial, transformative, and noteworthy helps process through troubling challenges. Year end is a time of accounting for profits and losses, and making sense of what went right and what didn’t. In the city and town planning realm that we discuss here, that often comes down to comparing if our words line up with our actions. Continue Reading

Places that Pay: Benefits of placemaking v2

“Reconciliation is making peace with reality, our ideals, and the gap in between,” via Her Honour, Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. Much of our work here at PlaceMakers is about redirecting the trajectory of where we are headed with the targets needed to ensure the wellness of our environment, equity, and economy, so that stopgap measures are kept to a minimum. The studies that quantify how the form of our cities, towns, villages, and hamlets effects this wellness is essential to building the political will to make change. Listed below are the 65 key works I’m most likely to quote, to make the case for developing the city and town planning tools we need to make a difference for the resilience of people, planet and profit. Continue Reading

Ten key ingredients of a green and healthy community

Kaid-BenfieldIf someone asks what a green community, or a healthy one, means to you, what comes to mind? I’m willing to bet that for most people it is the visible and tangible aspects: a lovely city park, perhaps, or mature street trees, or bicycle lanes on a city street. If you’re a bit more wonky, you might also think of access to healthy food, or to public transportation. If you work on these matters for a living, you might think of more technical matters such as where we get our energy, what happens to our waste, and whether neighborhood streets are designed in a pattern that facilitates walking to accomplish everyday errands. Continue Reading

The (Irrational) Criminalization of Walking

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, if only there was a concise resource available that articulates key reasons why walking is so much less prevalent in the modern age; why this presents unanticipated threats to safety, health, the environment, child development, and social equity; and what we in our communities can do to effectively advocate for change; and that argues the case in a manner compelling to folks across the political spectrum, then today’s your lucky day. Because yesterday marked the release of “The Criminalization of Walking” by law professor and congenial urbanist, Michael Lewyn, and it’s got all the tools you need to restore common sense, wherever you live.

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CNU 25 Seattle: Highlights from the silver anniversary

Last week was the 25th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, where 1,400 city planners, architects, developers, economists, and mayors from around the world gathered to discuss the future of cities. Hosted in collaboration with the Urban Land Institute, comprised of an additional 6,000 developers and builders, the two events brought significant inspiration and insight to those working in the city building trenches. Here are a few of the ideas that resonated the most with me, along with some of my favourite spots in downtown Seattle, where the “unboxed” conferences were held. All images are clickable for a larger view, and have CreativeCommons ShareAlike License with Attribution to Hazel Borys. Continue Reading

The Trifecta: Urbanism, architecture, and nature

We often blog on the benefits of nature integrated into urbanism and wellbeing outcomes of walkability. The real trifecta is when walkable urbanism, human-scale architecture, and nature come together via placemaking. A recent study from the University of Warwick points out that a scenic view delivers equal health benefits to access to nature: “Cohesion of architecture and design boosts people’s health and happiness, not just the number of parks and trees.”

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Nature’s Healing Ways

The other day while walking my dog, I was trying to count the ways nature makes us healthier, as a means of distracting myself from the fact that the temperature was -40, with wind chill. That’s the point where Celsius and Fahrenheit converge. However, since this is my 9th winter in my beloved Winnipeg – one of the three coldest big cities on earth – I was dressed for the occasion and was keeping to the sidewalks in the active core. Here tight setbacks and street trees provide shelter from the wind, neighbourhood shops and cafés offer places to stop in and warm up, and short blocks provide plenty of places to turn around when the time is right.
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Loneliness, Isolation, and Dementia: Walking down our odds of disconnection

In this week after the most contentious U.S. presidential election of my lifetime, millions of us are feeling lonely, regardless of which way we cast our vote. Loneliness is not the result of being alone, but rather the feeling of being disconnected. Now more than ever, all that connects us to common ground – and to the neighborhoods we call home – is essential and deserves nurturing. Loneliness is more prevalent than depression, but we don’t understand it as well because we are generally not as willing to talk about it.
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Four Characteristics of Active, Healthy Neighborhoods

Kaid-BenfieldScientists are learning more and more about how where we live affects the amount of exercise we get, and thus how fit and healthy we are likely to be. In general, city dwellers are particularly well placed to get regular exercise if they can take care of some or all of their daily errands without getting into a car: walking is good for us, and so is taking public transportation, because almost every transit trip begins and ends with a walking trip.

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