Recent reports from the Ontario College of Family Physicians provide concrete evidence that many of us in the livable communities field already knew: that people in cities with higher densities (i.e. walkable places) live longer than those that live in lower-density places (i.e. the suburbs). These reports that covered two-thirds of the total population of the U.S. (83 regions) found that the greater the density (sprawl index), the fewer the fatalities per 1000 people.
The reports demonstrate that lower densities have higher incidence of cardiovascular and lung diseases including asthma in children, as well as cancer and diabetes – all of which can be linked to the higher obesity rates and increased air pollution from gridlock. Perhaps the more surprising total for some non-believers are the increased traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. This makes sense because of the fact that in higher density places, you tend to walk more. Services are usually provided at a pedestrian scale and the need for automobiles significantly decreases.
The reports also offer some recommendations on what you should look for when choosing a community. I wanted to see if I the neighborhood I lived in satisfied their criteria. Here are their suggestions (with my results):
*Can walk to work, stores, schools, parks, restaurants, places of worship, and social gathering spots and therefore, reduce the need to drive.*
Check. I live within short walking distance of all of those activities.
*Have pedestrian paths and bike lanes so you can easily continue your daily physical activity.*
Check. There are wide sidewalks on both sides of every street and bike lanes on the majority of streets nearby.
*Have efficient public transportation systems that run frequently and on time offering alternatives to driving.*
Check. I live within a few blocks of three light rail stations and numerous bus routes.
*Have parks and wildlife areas to help clean and cool the air.*
Check. I live adjacent to one block park and two blocks from a large regional park.
Well, looks like I passed their test. Hopefully this means that I will live longer! Walkable Neighborhoods in the future plans to establish criteria to help perform evaluations on whether or not you live in a walkable neighborhood and how you score. Until then, I invite you to rate yourself using their checklist and really think about the place you live. Are you really maximizing your quality of life? Unfortunately, walkability often does not associate with affordability, and sometimes living in high-density areas is not an option for this reason. But when looking at statistics, the correlation between affordability and walkability is really not surprising.
Source: CoolTown Studios