08 April 2007

Planning for Expansion

Suburbia Central – Planning for Expansion.

Will people look back on early 21st Century Gosford with bemused wonder at the shape of the inhabitant’s bodies, the way some people now regard the fashions of the 1970s, as something almost alien?

Is the suburban culture of the Central Coast responsible for the fatty somatic inflation? Some recent research finds a link between obesity and urban design. (Please note Gosford City Planners)

Does sprawl make us fat?
A recent Science News story is about the relationship between city design and health. New transdisciplinary research is exploring whether urban sprawl makes us soft, or people who don't like to exercise move to the suburbs, or, more likely, some combination of both. An important factor is a community's so-called network efficiency - its walkability. In an efficient network, such as a grid-like neighborhood, pedestrians can walk relatively directly between any two points. The maze of cul-de-sacs found in many new “developments” is an inefficient network."

From Science News:

(University of British Columbia urban planning professor Lawrence) Frank's team, like the other groups, found that areas with interspersed homes, shops, and offices had fewer obese residents than did homogeneous residential areas whose residents were of a similar age, income, and education. Furthermore, neighborhoods with greater residential density and street plans that facilitate walking from place to place showed below-average rates of obesity.

The magnitude of the effect wasn't trivial: A typical white male living in a compact, mixed-use community weighs about 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) less than a similar man in a diffuse subdivision containing nothing but homes, Frank and his colleagues reported.

So far, the dozen strong studies that have probed the relationships among the urban environment, people's activity, and obesity have all agreed, says (Reid Ewing of the University of Maryland at College Park's National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education). "Sprawling places have heavier people," he says. "There is evidence of an association between the built environment and obesity."

Does this research shed some light on other aspects of culture? The Back Page comments on how it might be applicable to the state of “Art” locally.

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