Last week I walked downtown and almost got pancaked by a car.
So naturally, after I made sure I was still three-dimensional, my mind wandered to my built environment.
See? Who says my blog isn’t exciting?
The built environment refers to the infrastructure of a community, including its buildings, parks, neighborhoods, retail development, and residential areas.
In public health, the definition expands to include a community’s access to healthy food, safe neighborhoods, and its walkability and bikeability—basically anything that promotes health. As such, tackling a city’s built environment is another tool in the fight against obesity.
Oftentimes low-income communities get hit the hardest. Access to grocery stores and recreational areas is limited (a concept I mention in my upcoming novel).
But those who live in suburbs pay a price too. Thanks to urban sprawl and the tendency to separate retail areas from residential ones, not to mention America’s love affair with the no-outlet cul-de-sac, suburban dwellers are forced to rely on their cars.
For example, take me and my near-pancake experience. In order to walk downtown and enjoy my local businesses, I must either go sans sidewalk or navigate a maze, one that requires crossing an underpass and walking side by side with moving vehicles.
So, if I go the front way, it looks something like this:
If I go the back way, it’s more like this:
Though I’m fortunate my town’s center is only a mile away, I can’t get there on continuous sidewalk.
And that’s just not safe.
But I can make due. After all, I wear ugly, sensible footwear. But for those who are unable to walk through weedy yards and uneven terrain, or don’t want to risk their life in a perilous underpass, they have to rely on their cars and lose out on the health benefits of walking, not to mention breathing fresh air.
So I’m hoping one day to eventually see sidewalk. One that gets me from point A to point B without a twisted ankle or a flattened torso.
Wouldn’t that be swell?
What’s the built environment like in your community?
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