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Community Strategies

	Community Strategies Bike SymbolCreating or modifying environments to make it easier for people to walk or bike is a strategy that not only helps increase physical activity, but can makes our communities better places to live. Communities designed to support physical activity are often called active communities. The Guide to Community Preventive Services recommends three strategies to increase physical activity that are related to walkability—community-scale urban design, street-scale urban design, and improving access to places for physical activity (including providing maps and descriptive information).1,2 Studies show more people bike and walk in communities where improvements have been made to biking and walking conveniences. This includes adding safer sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes.1 In addition, when people move to neighborhoods that are designed to promote physical activity and active transportation (mixed-use developments), they tend to spend less time in their cars and more time walking for transportation.3

Active Communities are Safer Communities

	Dad walking with two kidsStreets designed to be walkable and bike-able improve safety for everyone. Programs like Safe Routes to Schools improve the safety of children who walk and bike to school. These programs have shown reductions in traffic-related injuries.4,5 Communities designed to encourage walking increase the number of people out and about, thus increasing the number of "eyes on the street" and deterring illegal activity.6-8

Active Communities Support Social Cohesion

Going on a hike with a teenage child. Stopping to chat with neighbors while walking the dog. Biking down to the local coffee shop with a friend. Going outside for a "walking meeting" with colleagues. All of these are examples of how walking can help build social cohesion through interpersonal interaction.9

Active Communities Reduce Air Pollution

Improving the community environment so that people can choose to walk, bike, or take transit offers environmental benefits. Each time people choose to walk, bike, or take public transit rather than drive, they reduce the air pollution and greenhouse gases that their car would have produced.10-12

Active Communities Provide Economic Benefits

Features of active communities—pedestrian-friendly streets, protected bike lanes, compactness, mixed land use, and access to transit—have been shown to be associated with economic benefits to the community.13 These benefits can include higher home real estate values and higher levels of retail activity, and can lower the cost of providing public infrastructure and delivering services such as utilities.13 Active communities also prove to be attractive places for businesses to locate.13

Actions that States and Communities Can Take:

  • Create or enhance physical activity environments to be pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
  • Support community design and transportation planning policy to support walking and other forms of active transport.
  • Implement strategies in the National Physical Activity Plan, and the National Prevention Strategy and CDC Recommendations for Improving Health through Transportation policy.

Resources

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References

  1. Heath GW, Brownson RC, Kruger J, et al. The effectiveness of urban design and land use and transport policies and practices to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2002;3:S55-76.
  2. Task Force on Community Preventive S. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Am J Prev Med 2002;22:67-72.
  3. Mumford KG, Contant CK, Weissman J, Wolf J, Glanz K. Changes in Physical Activity and Travel Behaviors in Residents of a Mixed-Use Development. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011;41:504-7.
  4. DiMaggio C, Li GH. Effectiveness of a Safe Routes to School Program in Preventing School-Aged Pedestrian Injury. Pediatrics 2013;131:290-6.
  5. United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Evaluation of the Safety Benefits of Legacy Safe Routes to School Programs: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov2009 .
  6. Newman O. Defensible space: Crime prevention through urban design. New York: Macmillan; 1973.
  7. Mair JS, Mair M. Violence prevention and control through environmental modifications. Annual review of public health 2003:24(1), 209-25.
  8. Jeffery C. Crime prevention through environmental design. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications; 1971.
  9. Leyden KM. Social capital and the built environment: The importance of walkable neighborhoods. Am J Public Health 2003;93:1546-51.
  10. Grabow ML, Spak SN, Holloway T, Stone Jr. B, Mednick AC, Patz JA. Air Quality and Exercise-Related Health Benefits from Reduced Car Travel in the Midwestern United States. Environmental Health Perspectives 2012:68-76.
  11. Rabl A, de Nazelle A. Benefits of Shift from Car to Active Transport. Transport Policy 19 2010:121-31.
  12. Lindsay G, Macmillan A, Woodward A. Moving urban trips from cars to bicycles. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2011;5.1:54-60.
  13. Smart Growth and Economic Success: Benefits for Real Estate Developers, Investors, Businesses and Local Governments: Environmental Protection Agency; 2012.
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