Walkable communities in Haldimand-Norfolk
Health Action and the Health Unit encourage people to be more physically active by promoting “active living”. Active living refers to integrating regular physical activity into daily routines such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to the store, school or work instead of driving. By integrating physical activity into daily living, it is easier to accumulate the necessary levels to attain health benefits.
Even a small increase in walking would substantially improve the health and quality of life of most people. However, in order to encourage more levels of purposeful and leisure physical activity, the built environment must be supportive. Making the healthy choice the easiest choice through the built environment involves ensuring that the communities where people live, work and play allow everyone the choice to be active, safely.
What is a walkable community?
A walkable community is a community where walking as a form of transportation and leisure is possible. Walkable communities are an important part of a healthy and vibrant community. Communities can encourage citizens to rely on their cars less and choose walking more often. They can make sure that the places people live, work, learn and play are close together so that people can choose walking as a form of everyday transportation. Well-designed, compact communities allow people to walk to school and work, to stores, parks and restaurants. When people can walk, they don’t need to drive as much. This is good for people, the environment and the economy.
An increasing amount of research demonstrating that the way our communities are designed (connecting sidewalks, having destinations and amenities within walking distance, green space/parks) has an impact on physical activity levels. It is important to note, however, that it is often difficult to isolate each individual variable when studying the built environment. Land development patterns that are conducive to walking and cycling are often found in the same neighbourhoods as those where street networks and design also favour non-motorized travel.
Why are Walkable Communities Important?
There are economic, health, environmental, transportation and social benefits of building and sustaining a community that supports walking as a primary mode of transportation. They include:
- Health: Reducing the health risks such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease currently faced in our communities.
- Environment: Replacing short distance auto trips that damage the environment by impacting air and water quality.
- Road Traffic and Congestion: Reducing road congestion, and improving safety by calming auto traffic and reducing maintenance costs.
- Society: Promoting community cohesion and a heightened sense of place. Discouraging street crime by increasing pedestrian and cycling traffic. Reintroducing residents to the street to enhance their awareness of the environment.
- Economy: Reducing health care costs by increasing the health of residents. Improving access to employment, education & social services.