Many of the techniques that make communities more attractive and affordable places to live also make them healthier places. Neighborhood amenities such as community gardens improve access to healthy food. Streets that are safe and comfortable for walkers and bikers encourage people to get more exercise as part of their daily routines. Smart growth strategies help ensure communities develop in ways that keep our children and families healthy, with clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and safe places to exercise outside.
Smart growth strategies make walking and bicycling easier.
When a community is designed to be easier to get around, people can more easily incorporate physical activity into their daily lives. Only about one-quarter of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise daily. This lack of inactivity has contributed to the obesity epidemic, yet we build our communities in ways that discourage everyday physical activity like walking and bicycling.
Smart growth strategies reduce congestion and air pollution.
Communities that provide transportation options and services within closer reach have driving rates that are about one-third lower than typical American neighborhoods, which means less smog and other air pollution. Children are especially susceptible to respiratory problems like asthma, which can be worsened by air pollution. With over nine million children in the U.S. suffering from asthma and millions more Americans who die each year due to high levels of air pollution, designing communities in ways that reduce traffic and encourage healthy options like walking and bicycling are crucial.
Smart growth strategies help protect drinking water.
Many communities around the country are protecting their water supplies by directing growth away from areas near drinking water sources or by preserving undeveloped land around those sources to protect them from pollution. The preserved land not only protects water quality, it also gives people valued places to play, relax, and connect with nature.
Smart growth strategies ensure difficult development decisions are made inclusively.
In cities across the country, polluting factories and highways have been disproportionately built in low-income and minority communities, putting public health in these areas at risk. Smart growth means ensuring that people of all income levels have a say in what gets built in their backyard and that lower income neighborhoods are not unfairly burdened with harmful development.
Smart growth strategies make streets safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Smart growth makes streets safer and easier to use for all kinds of travelers, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit riders, as well as children, the elderly and travelers with disabilities. Changes to street design like enlarging sidewalks, installing medians and adding bike lanes are low cost but yield huge reductions in traffic accidents and fatalities.