Can good urban design give us happier, healthier lives?
Have you ever noticed how many neighbourhoods were designed with cars in mind, rather than people? Narrow sidewalks (often made worse by Ottawa and Gatineau’s icy winters) and sprawling communities make it challenging to get around without a car, putting pedestrians and cyclists on the back burner. The need for cars isn’t just bad for the environment – it’s also bad for our bodies. In a recent CBC article, Dr. Karen Lee explained “the environments where we live have actually been described as ‘obesegenic’ — meaning, you just live in them and you’ll gain weight.”
So what can we do to help reroute these unhealthy habitats? Use urban design to build better ones!
We can start by designing communities that encourage us to move ourselves, walking or cycling rather than driving everywhere. Studies show that in communities with safe, reliable public transit and wide sidewalks and bike lanes, more people choose to walk or cycle as their main mode of transportation. These small choices add up – it’s amazing how a little daily exercise can lead to considerable weight loss and health benefits over the year!
Urban design also suggests creating destinations within our communities that make it easier to live, work, and play nearby. It’s important to think about creating spaces for people to come together, run errands, and go about their day with ease. Parks and plazas, shops and restaurants – why make the drive elsewhere when just about everything you need is around the corner?
Urban design plays an important role in creating healthy, happy communities, and that’s a core concept of our work at Zibi. How do you make the most of your community? Let us know in the comments!