Web only: Complete streets -- conference explores transportation issues 

The Health by Design coalition hosted its second annual conference for Balanced Transportation for Healthier Communities Monday, Sept. 8 at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.

Some people might describe a complete street as a paved road, but according to the topic at this year’s conference, a “complete street” is one that promotes physical activity and a friendly environment. A street like this would include sidewalks, bike lanes, pedestrian crosswalks and turning lanes.

The conference consisted of several reputable speakers. Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department, encouraged guests to get involved in transportation planning and design.

“In too many communities the option of walking or bicycling as means of transportation has virtually been eliminated from community planning,” Caine said.

The health of the people of Indiana is the driving force for the desire to change the architecture of our cities. Another speaker, Dr. Dhananjaya Arekere, spoke about the two major factors to Hoosier obesity, which is poor diet and physical inactivity.

“What are the benefits of physical activity? There are about 20 diseases or conditions linked to physical inactivity,” Arekere said.

The idea of the past was to accommodate the growing number of commuters by building more roads or adding more lanes to existing roads, but it is evident now that we are contributing to a vicious cycle that is detrimental to our health and environment.

Speaker and engineer Walter Kulash put it this way: “We are now starting to believe that doing the unthinkable, excepting more congestion as a public health measure, at first looks like it does some bad things, like increasing delays and cost, but we start losing alternative modes of travel. We foster different types of retail and good things start to emerge …”

Cities like Louisville, Chicago and Charlotte are already taking action to promote better designs for their streets and communities. With the people’s support and agencies like Health by Design, Indiana can move towards becoming like one of these innovated cities.

For more on Health by Design: http://www.healthbydesignonline.org/.

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