Colorado Walkable Cities Better for Humans and Hyperloops

Paris in Civilization Beyond Earth

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! 🙂

Superconductors and NO2 Monitoring Help Colorado Hyperloop

A bulk superconductor levitated by a permanent magnet Credit: University of Cambridge
A bulk superconductor levitated by a permanent magnet Credit: University of Cambridge

These two technology advances will help with the implementation of the Colorado Hyperloop. They also had large converging in the news sphere.

New record for a trapped field in a superconductor, beating a record that has stood for more than a decade, could herald the arrival of materials in a broad range of fields. 

The research demonstrates the potential of high-temperature superconductors for applications in a range of fields, including flywheels for energy storage, ‘magnetic separators’, which can be used in mineral refinement and pollution control, and in high-speed levitating monorail trains. – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cambridge-team-breaks-superconductor-world-record#sthash.rvWV1fP1.dpuf

Instead of monorails, lets think of hyperloops.

Next, the Denver haze/brown cloud has been monitored from Space!

Anyone living in a major U.S. city for the past decade may have noticed a change in the air. The change is apparent in new NASA satellite images unveiled this week that demonstrate the reduction of air pollution across the country.
After ten years in orbit, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite has been in orbit sufficiently long to show that people in major U.S. cities are breathing less nitrogen dioxide – a yellow-brown gas that can cause respiratory problems.

Denver N02
Image Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler

Satellite data show that Denver has seen a 22 percent decrease in nitrogen dioxide between the 2005-2007 (left) and 2009-2011 (right) periods. NASA’s Discover-AQ, a multi-year airborne mission, is flying this summer in Denver to learn more about the region’s wide range of air pollutants.

Nitrogen dioxide is one of the six common pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health. Alone it can impact the respiratory system, but it also contributes to the formation of other pollutants including ground-level ozone and particulates, which also carry adverse health effects. The gas is produced primarily during the combustion of gasoline in vehicle engines and coal in power plants. It’s also a good proxy for the presence of air pollution in general.
Air pollution has decreased even though population and the number of cars on the roads have increased. The shift is the result of regulations, technology improvements and economic changes, scientists say.

In fact, about 142 million people still lived in areas in the United States with unhealthy levels of air pollution, according to the EPA. Also, high levels of air pollution remain an issue in many other parts of the world, according to the global view from satellites.
“While our air quality has certainly improved over the last few decades, there is still work to do – ozone and particulate matter are still problems,” said Bryan Duncan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Decision makers and regulatory agencies like EPA have long relied on data from ground sites to inform air quality science and forecasts. NASA, while not directly involved with regulation or making forecasts, provides a consistent, global, space-based view – not possible from any other source – of when and where air pollution occurs.

The hyperloop will further decrease the use of gas engines and coal power plants.

So lets hope those superconductors get implemented soon into transportation and lets hope the satellites monitoring the NO2 continue to work for years to come!