U.S. Adults show strong willingness to back street improvements to make physical activity an easier choice

The New York State Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity sent this article summary:

Survey: U.S. Adults show strong willingness to back street improvements to make physical activity an easier choice

About two out of three adults are willing to take civic action to support local street-scale urban design policy changes that make walking and biking easier in their neighborhoods, according to a new CDC study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. The article, titled "Public Support for Street Scale Urban Design Practices and Policies to Increase Physical Activity," is based on a data analysis of 4,682 adults participants in the 2006 HealthStyles survey.

"Street-scale design" refers to physical changes such as ensuring sidewalk continuity, improving street lighting, introducing or enhancing traffic calming elements (eg., center islands, raised crosswalks), and improving the safety and landscaping aesthetics of the street area. Generally these kinds of changes are applied to small geographic areas, usually limited to a few blocks.

The authors note that street-scale design is important because it targets populations rather than individuals. Street-scale design changes were recommended by the Task Force on Community and Preventive Services based on studies that showed physical activity increased by an average of 35% following such changes in neighborhoods.

To make these changes happen, study authors point out that public opinion and support is often instrumental. The article discusses how these findings can be used to foster public support to make physical activity an easier choice in neighborhoods, and notes that neighborhoods vary in their level of support. These differences are important considerations when working toward policy changes around community design, the article points out.

This study can be found here: Carlson SA, Guide R, Schmid T, Moore L, Barradas D, and Fulton J. Public support for street-scale urban design practices and policies to increase physical activity. J of Physical Activity and Health, 2011, 8(Suppl 1), S125-S134.