Tuesday, December 2, 2014
By Sarah Canavese
When I sat down to talk with leaders from communities working with Missouri Livable Streets communities, I suspected I would hear a lot about the healthy living benefits to passing these policies. But when I sat down to talk to Paige Behm from McDonald County, I was in for a surprise.
Behm is the health administrator for McDonald County Health Department and when we talked about why she thought there was a need for sidewalks and livable streets, she was quick with her answer.
“Poverty is a big issue here. We really don’t have public transportation… so, it makes it difficult for people who don’t have transportation,” said Behm. “What they are having to do is rely on other people to get to and from where they need to go. But if they need [a ride] or [are] relying on [others] to get to work, that is a real issue. If you don’t get to work on time, you loose your job, and that just keeps you in poverty.”
Behm’s comment was eye-opening. McDonald County sits at the far southwestern corner of the state. According to County Health Rankings 2014 data, out of the 115 counties in Missouri (including St. Louis City), McDonald ranks 97th in health outcomes. Its residents experience high rates of obesity and other chronic disease, and many are uninsured.
Likewise, nearly 26 percent of those living in McDonald County identify as having poor or fair health (CHR 2014) and according to the American Community Survey,* McDonald County has a 19.3 percent disabilities rate, Behm made it clear that allowing for others, not just motorists to use the road is very important. She talked about a man in a wheelchair she regularly sees who motivates her.
“Really, it is the man in the wheelchair who can’t cross the street safely. That is what motivates me,” she said. “It is because I see him… from time to time and he is trying to get across traffic in a wheelchair because that’s his only transportation.”
Continues Behm, “As far as [Livable Streets] benefits, there are economic benefits because people want to move to healthy communities. There are benefits for business [because] along with healthy communities comes economic growth.”
But these benefits, Behm acknowledged, can be hard to envision when communities fear that the changes could generate higher costs. “[That] is the hardest challenge,” she said, “getting people to realize that it doesn’t always cost money. They think taxes are going to go up, and that is one of the challenges is educating them [on] what the policies are. It doesn’t mean an increase in taxes.”
As part of her work in McDonald County, Behm plans to continue supporting local efforts, including the work of local betterment clubs. These betterment clubs work to help generate conversation on active design or Livable Street topics within the community and are already planning events to raise money for walking trails. “The thing about McDonald County,” she explains, “[is] that once one city does something, [people] see [and say], ‘Wow, another city has done it. We should do that.’ I think it will take one city to take that first step and the others will follow.”
To learn more about how you can get involved visit Missouri Livable Streets.
*According to the ACS there are six different disability types: hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty and independent living difficulty. To read each categories definition you can find them here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A discussion with Chillicothe’s city administrator about Livable Streets
|Courtesy: City of Chillicothe|
Monday, October 13, 2014
Monday, October 6, 2014
Recently I had a chance to sit down and talk with seven different communities that are partnering with Missouri Livable Streets. In talking with them, I learned why they needed livable streets, what benefits their community hoped to gain, and what other communities could learn from their journeys. In my first post, I share what I learned from Bowling Green, a small community in Pike County in northeastern Missouri. Please be sure to check the Missouri Livable Streets blog for future posts from the other communities, too.
After I sat down with Dan Lang, the one thing that I took away from the interview was how his past experience as an urban planner has helped him realize how much Livable Streets would complement his community.
Prior to his present position as city administrator of Bowling Green, Lang worked as an urban planner, and back then, Bowling Green was one of his client communities. As part of his job, he did a comprehensive plan for Bowling Green and quickly saw the need for Livable Streets.
“There were a number of aspects related to livable communities or livable streets philosophy that came out of that planning exercise,” Lang said. “Bowling Green is a small, somewhat rural community. I have noticed since I have been here that there is a continuing and renewed interest in walking.”
Fast-forward a few years and when Lang became city administrator, he started to put those ideas, observations and plans into action. After joining the Missouri Livable Streets mailing list and hearing about the opportunity to partner with the project team in 2014, Lang quickly put forward the application for Bowling Green. The town was selected as one of seven communities to receive technical assistance and other information for considering or implementing Livable Streets policies.
Lang sees the assistance well timed to what is happening in his community. “I see a lot of people participating in walking: we have a very well used walking path in our city park… there’s a lot of interest here of people getting out and walking the community and bicycling to some extent.”
Among the challenges that Lang faces, he shared, “It’s difficult to get enough people in the community to know about it, to support an effort, and to move forward with the project. I think education is the key. And I think, too, in most communities, the impact of the cost associated with doing things within your community, whether that’s with streets, or construction of bicycle paths, there is always a funding side to that and can be an issue.”
Acknowledging the challenges, Lang’s commitment is still steady. “I want them to know that it is an achievable policy. If there is a way for us to incorporate [Livable Streets] into our design criteria, or for other communities to do the same thing, then it warrants taking a closer look.”
To learn more about Missouri Livable Streets and how to become involved with your own community, visit http://livablestreets.missouri.edu.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Staying active in your community, however, will not only improve your health but the overall well-being of your local community, too.
But being physically active doesn’t have to mean an expensive gym membership. Think about what activities you like to do and then consider where you can start.
Here are five ways to stave more active on a street near you:
In fact, Missouri has the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project, Katy Trail State Park, which extends almost 240 miles from Machens to Clinton, Missouri. The “park” is largely flat and most of the trail follows the northern bank of the Missouri River. Bicyclists, walkers and joggers are treated to views from open fields to Missouri River bluffs. Local communities along the trail offer a variety of shops and sights as well.
So if you’re a hiker, jogger, cyclist, horseback rider, or even a lover of sightseeing, head over to the Katy Trail, there’s enough access, beauty and diversity to keep anyone interested.
Walking is an exercise that can burn a lot of calories and doing it on daily basis can increase one’s fitness. You can also reduce your chances of a host of diseases--heart attacks, diabetes, and stress-related health issues.The CDC reports that walking is the most popular aerobic physical activity.
Adults who walk for transportation, fun, or exercise went up 6 percent in 5 years. And if that isn’t enough to get you to lace up your shoes, you can even save gas money and the environment by walking the streets of your neighborhood to get to your grocery store or local park.
Physical activity and heading outdoors can be even more fun if you have someone with whom to share it. Take a friend, family member, or significant other for daily walks around your neighborhood. Create a group for those in your community who would be interested in taking walks.
Staying active can be as simple as dusting the furniture in your home. Without even trying, your household chores can involve a lot of physical activity. Tasks such as vacuuming or yard work require squatting, lunging, and using your muscles. And if you’re feeling adventurous, turn on some music to pick up the pace. You could get a nice cardio workout!
A clean house can also alleviate stress because a clutter-free home can reduce anxiety levels, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine. By clearing your home of those dust mites, you can improve or avoid allergies entirely!
Communities usually have available shifts for volunteers in their food banks, parks, animal shelters, and special events. The hours are flexible and often are able accommodate busy schedules.
If you would like to volunteer, check out your local newspaper advertisements. There are a host of websites online dedicated to finding citizens volunteering opportunities in their local area, including the ones listed below. By volunteering, you can stay active and help your community at the same time.
For More Information:
These leagues just aren’t for kids either. Adult leagues are also popular in many communities and offer friendly games of kickball, Frisbee, golf and more. A well-run league can help strengthen neighborhood bonds, and help facilitate a sense of community.
There are a number of “how to: create club sports teams” online or on your local city council webpage.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Southern Boone Learning Garden Director Jennifer Grabner and Missouri Livable Streets partner Robert Johnson from PedNet were both featured in a radio story from KBIA. Discussing Ashland's shift toward expanding sidewalks and walkways, Grabner shared her awareness that more community members have been taking to the streets to walk and bicycle over the last few years. Ashland's police chief also noted that a Livable Streets approach is critical for ensuring public safety as more people increase their physical activity and navigate local streets and pathways that may not be adequately connected. (Listen to the entire story)
We are excited to partner with Ashland and look forward to increasing safe ways to walk and bicycle in the future!
Friday, June 27, 2014
Between 2010 and 2011, the researchers followed 1,635 men and women from across the Unites States ages 70 to 89 that could walk roughly a quarter of a mile without any type of assistance.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014
“Local communities know what works well in their towns and these trainings are tailored to their needs and futures,” said Robert Johnson, PedNet director of consulting. “We are energized to be able to work with such a diverse and interested group.”
All around the country, communities are making the move to livable with transportation plans and designs that encourage and provide safe, accessible transportation for all users and modes of travel. In 2013 alone, more than 80 communities adopted Livable or Complete Streets policies, according to Smart Growth America.
Missouri is no exception. Since 2004, a list has grown of communities working to improve their safety, health and economic vitality through transportation policy considerations. To date, Missouri boasts 23 policies and ordinances, and as a result communities are seeing physical improvements to their community, more biking and walking, and great economic development.
Stay tuned to the MO LS blog and livablestreets.missouri.edu for updates on these and other Missouri communities on the road to getting livable.