Colorado Walkable Cities Better for Humans and Hyperloops

The Denver Business Journal does not normally post things that might touch on Human-Centered Design but today they relayed the findings from a University of Colorado Denver  paper that walkable cities make for healthier citizens.  The study goes more into how the physical streets (not really sidewalks) have been designed, networked and planned over time and how that determines whether they have “good public health”. From the Denver Business Journal:

If Colorado communities were looking for one more reason to shift towards transit-oriented development, they may have found it.
Cities that have denser, more compact living conditions are likely to have lower disease rates and obesity rates, according to a new University of Colorado Denver study.
“While it is possible to lead an active, healthy lifestyle in most any type of neighborhood, our findings suggest that people living in more compact cities do tend to have better health outcomes,” said Wesley Marshall, assistant professor of engineering at CU Denver.

Good job CU Denver Department of Civil Engineering!

The news story is similar to the Colorado Hyperloop post on NASA monitoring the air quality above Colorado.  But it ties those kind of findings with a Danish way of life. Specifically, how to make healthy cities by Jan Hehl:

Cities of the 21st century should be lively, safe, sustainable and healthy cities. Jan Gehl tells us how all of these qualities can be achieved through the policy of making walking and cycling the preferred mode of movement in the city.

To me, a sustainable city would be a very people-friendly city. It would be a city with good public spaces and a city that is rather compact. It would be a city that really invites people to walk and bicycle as much as possible. A good walking and cycling environment with a good public realm is also a good environment for public transport, so there is an important connection here as well. Strengthening public transportation will be essential in the future, in order to become less dependent on private cars and also in order for the city to become more people-friendly.

Having a hyperloop station in the most densely populated areas with best pedestrian and public transport access would be ideal. Im just not sure how that would work though…  but thats why we need to start thinking big.

But lets end on a high note. Read the excellent post on the Gehl Architects blog by Sustainia’s  Fabijana Popovic:

Where does health come from?

We tend to view an unhealthy diet and physical inactiveness as personal life style choices – but there are some important questions, we should be asking before we draw that conclusion. Is it easy to walk or bike from A to B where you live? Are there healthy foods available at your local grocery store? Are there enough green spaces, where your busy city mind can take a break and you can breathe in clean air?

Being unhealthy is only a lifestyle choice if there is an alternative. And there are many ways in which cities can encourage a healthier way of life.

The rapid urbanization puts pressure on city planners, policy makers and architects to create healthy, sustainable and socially-functioning cities for the 6.3 billions who will have moved to a city by 2050. One thing is creating homes for all these people, it’s another thing to create the spaces between the homes that encourage us to live healthy lives.

One thing is clear, healthy cities don’t just happen – they are built on purpose. When we don’t just consider health a personal issue, we open our eyes to the health potential in the spaces we share. We could open up for more outdoors classes for school children, and more walking meetings for the workforce. If we make active transportation a priority, we would build cities that make it easy to walk and bike around and thereby reduce commuting by car, and if we acknowledge that a healthy diet can prevent many chronic diseases, we would have more city gardens and the availability of local foods would rise. And if we build spaces that encourage different people to meet and have a conversation, we will have created a city with more cohesion and less loneliness.

Health is no more a personal issue than sustainability or traffic safety is. Furthermore, it is a cross-sector job, where different stakeholders need to work together in order to create a healthy city. Only in the space between city planners, architects, politicians, healthcare professionals and other vital societal arenas can we create cities that are truly forpeople.

One more thing, the featured picture/gif above is from the video game Civilization, Beyond Earth which might have mag lev or hyperloops in it… can’t wait to play it in October! 🙂

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