Health and Transportation in Cities

“Denser metros where greater shares of residents walked or bike to work were healthier than more sprawling metros where larger shares of people drove to work by themselves.  The way we live — not just what we eat and how much we exercise — appears to play a big role in how healthy we are.”  –Richard Florida in The Gaurdian, The Sickness at the Heart of Modern Cities

“Individuals, communities, and governments around the world have, for decades, sought ways to curb the growing rate of childhood obesity. Some of the most successful efforts have happened at the community level.”  —Getter Our Arms Around Obesity , Santa Fe Institute

Transportation choice is a focal point for empowering public health and wellness, sustainability in cities, and an equitable and connected society.  In Southwest cities like Albuquerque we see the distinctive characteristics of post World War II urban growth oriented around the capabilities of the car.  We are becoming acutely aware of the limitations, costs and drawbacks of car centric development.  The next step seems to involve imagining a transportation ecosystem that moves past car dependence and gives us more balanced and diverse choices.  The new economy is about uniting people and technology to make positive impacts.  People, not goods and machines, are the orientation point.  For instance some of most cutting edge developments such as Facebook are really about growing networks and social connectivity amongst people.  Successful technologies are people-focused enterprises.

Amazingly the physical structures of our cities correlate with social symptoms.  When we spend too much time in cars cut off from the ability to speak to each other we can manifest social symptoms of alienation, loneliness and despair.  Even aggressiveness, frustration, violence.  When can get heart disease and diabetes.  “Social isolation that occurs in cities and vulnerability to disease are closely associated.” (Richard Florida in the Guardian).

The good news is we have purposeful work to do that unites us around common goals and objectives.  Its about an all of the above, inclusive approach.  Cars plus safety plus choices.  Albuquerque has genuinely made progress.  We have city wide initiatives like Innovate ABQ to spur the post-industrial, people centered economy.  And we have a strong welling up of community based organizations such as the projects sponsored by the Río Grande Community Development Corporation.  We don’t have to work alone but can use our passions  to be a part of an emergent way of living that brings us together.  Exploring with open minds helps us realize the potential benefits of simple technologies such as bicycling in our citiy’s ecosystem.  Sustainable transportation is something we can design that mimics the structure of energy flow in natural and biological systems.  Like blood in the body, we have to inhibit “free radicals” in our transportation system, such as irresponsible driving of vehicles, to protect the healthy cells.   Bicycling is part of the community toolkit we are developing to organize around core principles that promote the wellbeing of life on earth.  Health and happiness are indicators.

“Quality of place is important too — numerous surveys have shown that the physical and intangible features of a city are associated with higher levels of happiness and better health.”

“Cities themselves need to become more like teaching hospitals where researchers, policy-makers, urbanists and residents can come together to identify the most effective ways to promote healthier lifestyles.” ( (from Florida’s article in The Gaurdian).

Abundance and growth

engines of life in the South Valley

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