Thursday, September 18, 2014

Urban Form Affects Physical Activity Levels

This infographic from Active Living Research demonstrates how profoundly community design impacts how physically active people are. Bike lanes encourage more biking, dense development, sidewalks and greenways encourage more walking, and parks encourage more play. Urban form affects physical activity levels and physical activity levels are linked to specific health outcomes.

Click to Enlarge
If you're interested in scratching the surface below the level of an infographic, this research paper explores the Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity and Morbidity.

A few quick excerpts:

"Despite the health benefits of physical activity, 74% of U.S. adults do not get enough physical activity to meet public health recommendations and about one in four U.S. adults remains completely inactive during their leisure time."  

"Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHA-NES) found that 64.5% of the U.S. adult population is overweight and almost one in three is obese (30.5%). Excess weight and physical inactivity are reported to account for over 300,000 premature deaths each year, second only to tobacco-related deaths among preventable causes of death."

"This exploratory study seems to indicate that, after controlling for individual differences, those living in sprawling counties are likely to walk less in their leisure time, weigh more, and have greater prevalence of hypertension than those living in more compact places"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

Virtual Park Tour of Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park

Here's a fun new way to preview Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park from the comfort of your computer. No, you can't actually burn many calories this way, nor will you have nearly as much fun virtually.  The tour, however, gives people just learning about our parks a great sneak peek which will hopefully inspire them to come out and enjoy the facility in person.

The park tour is integrated with Google Map View, so if you Google Mary Holmes Park the option to preview it will display prominently.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vision Zero: Making pedestrian safety a public priority

The following is a repost from Better Cities and Towns - better places, stronger communities.

New York and other cities confront the critical problem of pedestrian fatalities.
Jay Walljasper, Better Cities & Towns

Pedestrians on Route 1 in Virginia. Credit: Cheryl Cort
More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America—more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

recent report from the National Complete Streets Coalition studying ten years of data found that 16 times more people were killed crossing the street than in natural disasters over the that same period. Another 68,000 walkers on average are injured every year. The victims are disproportionately children, seniors and people of color, according to the report.

This pedestrian safety crisis is even more dire internationally. More than 270,000 people are killed while walking every year—22 percent of a total 1.24 million traffic fatalities, according to the World Health Organization.

“It’s like an airplane falling out of the sky every other day. If that actually happened, the whole system would be ground to a halt until the problem was fixed,” notes Scott Bricker, Executive Director of America Walks, a coalition of walking advocacy groups. “We need to address this terrible problem with the same urgency.”
Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths (and all traffic fatalities) are viewed as an inevitable side effect of modern life. “People accept this as normal, just as 100 years ago most people accepted that women could not vote,” observes Gil Penalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, an international organization working to make streets safe for people of all ages.

Yet recent history offers genuine hope for making our streets safer. A generation ago domestic abuse and drunk driving were seen as sad, unalterable facts of human nature. But vigorous public campaigns to prevent these tragedies have shown remarkable results, offering clear evidence that destructive human behavior can be curbed when we put our minds to it. 

Sweden paves the way

Campaigns to reduce pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist deaths to zero are now taking shape around the country from Philadelphia to Chicago to Oregon.
This new safety strategy, called Vision Zero, is modeled on successful efforts in Sweden, where overall traffic deaths have been cut in half since 2000—making Swedish streets the safest in the world according to a front page story in The New York Times. Pedestrian deaths in the country have also plunged 50 percent since 2009.

The Economist magazine reports that Sweden accomplished all this by emphasizing safety over speed in road design. The influential conservative newsweekly cites improved crosswalks, lowered urban speed limits, pedestrian zones, barriers separating cars from bikes and pedestrians, and narrowing streets for the impressive drop in traffic deaths. 

Sweden takes a far different approach than conventional transportation planning, where “road users are held responsible for their own safety” according to the websiteVision Zero Initiative. Swedish policy by contrast believes that to save lives, roads must anticipate driver, bicyclist and walker errors, “based on the simple fact that we are human and we make mistakes.”  This is similar to the Netherlands’ policy of Forgiving Roads, which has reduced traffic fatalities by 75 percent since the 1970s, compared to less than a 20 percent reduction in the US over the same period.

Three US states that adopted aggressive measures to cut traffic deaths similar to Vision Zero—Utah, Minnesota and Washington—all have seen traffic fatalities decline by 40 percent or more, 25 percent better than the national average.

Streets of New York

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio won office last year on the promise of reducing traffic deaths in a city where someone is killed or seriously injured by a motor vehicle every two hours on average.

“The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable, and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable,” he wrote in a letter to New Yorkers… “They happen to people who drive and to those who bike, but overwhelmingly, the deadly toll is highest for pedestrians—especially our children and seniors.” Traffic accidents are the largest preventable cause of death for children under 14 in New York, and the second highest source of fatal injuries for people over 65.

In May New York’s City Council passed 11 bills and six resolutions to implement de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan across many city departments, including:

• Increased police enforcement for speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians and dangerous driving;
• A campaign in the state legislature to allow the city to lower speed limits to 25 mph (and 20 mph on some streets), which passed in June;
• Safety improvements such as traffic calming, speed cameras, and “slow zones” on streets;
• Stricter scrutiny of taxi drivers’ safety records;
• Street safety curriculum in schools; and
• Creation of a permanent Vision Zero Task Force at City Hall.

One of New York’s biggest problems, according to walking and bike advocates, is that the police department focuses far more resources on street crime than on street safety, even though 356 people were killed in traffic accidents last year (half of them pedestrians and bicyclists), compared to 333 murders.  Advocates cheered when de Blasio chose as his police chief William Bratton, who has spoken out about the need to curb traffic injuries and deaths. As New York’s police chief in the 1990s, Bratton’s “Zero Tolerance” policies were widely credited for the dramatic decrease of violent crime and advocates hope for the same with unsafe driving.

“It’s really impressive what Mayor de Blasio has done,” explains Noah Budnick, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “He has put his money where his mouth is” by finding funding for street safety projects and increased police enforcement in an era of tight budgets.

Streets of San Francisco & beyond

After New York, Vision Zero planning in the US is most advanced in San Francisco, which last year saw a near-record high of 25 pedestrian and bike fatalities. Walk San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition recently launched the Vision ZeroCoalition with the San Francisco School District and more than two dozen community organizations. Their mission is to encourage city officials to:

• Fix dangerous intersections and streets;
• Ensure “full and fair enforcement of traffic laws,” with an emphasis on curbing dangerous behavior;
• Invest in training and education for all road users, focusing on helping frequent drivers share the road with walkers and bicyclists;
• Eliminate all traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

“Vision Zero is about changing the culture of our dangerous streets … .” Nicole Schneider of Walk San Francisco and Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicyle Coalition wrote recently. “Vision Zero is also about empowering historically underrepresented communities that are disproportionately burdened by traffic injuries and chronic disease.”

Part 2 of this post is called Twelve steps to cut pedestrian deaths

Jay Walljasper, author of the Great Neighborhood Book, writes, speaks and consults about how to create safer, sustainable, more enjoyable communities.

Reposted with permission of Better Cities Better Towns

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sculpture on the Green Comes to Pittsboro

The following article about Sculpture on the Green first appeared in the Chatham County Line :

Sculpture on the Green Comes to Pittsboro by Deborah R. Meyer

(Author’s note – I love sculpture. For many years, I have written about it, and for the past 12 years, my husband and I have put on a large sculpture show with over 75 artists at our horse farm in Chatham County. So when Paul Horne, Parks Planner for the Town of Pittsboro, asked me to help him found a new sculpture exhibit at Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park, I jumped at the opportunity. We hope the community will jump with joy at this extraordinary chance to come picnic among the artwork.)

Sculpture by Chatham Sculptor Edwin White

Sculptor Jeff Hackney always has designs dancing in his head. But there they do not remain. He is continually bringing these ideas to life with works in private and public collections.
“One of the reasons I love sculpture is because it is an art form that interacts with the environment,” Hackney said.

During the first annual Sculpture on the Green event, May 17 through June 15 at Pittsboro’s Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park, viewers will get a chance to see how two of Hackney’s pieces converse with their surroundings.  Joining Hackney with their own unique and provocative sculptural works will be Edwin White, Janice Rieves, Joe Kenlan, Mark Elliott, Forrest Greenslade, Jenny Marsh, Steven Silverleaf, Andrew Dixon, Steve Cote, Stevenson McNeill, Hunter Levinsohn, and Mark Hewitt. The WingNut Artists, a newly-formed group of artists that focus on creating large-scale installations, are also participating with a piece that invites viewers to play. It will be a fun and intriguing show for all ages and the reception on Saturday, May 17, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., is especially geared towards children. Tokyo Rosenthal, who has traveled the world performing, is providing live music. The park is a perfect place to have a picnic but for those who take a break on the weekends from preparing food, a food cart or two will be on site. Throughout the opening reception, Sandi Adams, the founder of SandiCastles, will be on site building a sand sculpture and offering demonstrations. Adams began working in sand in 2008 and just a year later, took first place in the adult division at Castles and Scoops.

At 12:3 p.m., Forrest Greenslade will do a reading from his wonderful children’s book “Haicooo: Little Poems for Children,” that he collaborated on with his daughter Kathryn Armstrong:  she did the delightful artwork and Greenslade wrote the haiku. Greenslade’s sculptural contribution to the exhibit will be a green man, not to be found on the ground but up in a tree.

“I love making sculpture because of what one learns about creating two-dimensional art after one makes a piece of three-dimensional art,” Levinsohn said. “There is something about the tactile nature of creating in three-dimensions that makes it easier to draw.”

Children will be awestruck by Levinsohn’s enormous, prehistoric snake sculpture and feel the magic of her piece, “Open” which has 44 cranes hung from tree branches.

Andrew Dixon’s interactive piece “Qubularspun” has a kinetic element that is activated by slowly pushing any of the four top corners of the cube with one’s hand. His other piece, “Motion of DaVinci’s Helicopter,” was just completed before the show. “Creating sculpture is exciting,” Dixon said. “The process of creation that frees the image from my mind does totally remove the mundane thought construct dictated by every day life.”

The idea for Sculpture on the Green came to the Town of Pittsboro’s Park Planner Paul Horne one day while he was watching a presentation about a great annual sculpture show that the Town of Cary hosts. “Every other slide I recognized the works of Chatham artists, so it was obvious that our sculptors needed a venue closer to home,” said Horne, who hopes that this will become an annual event and grow over time.

The 10-acre Mary Holmes Park, 304 Old Rock Springs Cemetery Road, that will host the exhibit, has received a Recognition award from the American Society of Landscape Architects at its recent Tri-State Conference in Asheville. Other candidates being considered were among top projects in Georgia and South Carolina as well as North Carolina.

The opening reception is free. Questions? Email Paul Horne 

When there is sculpture involved, there is a guarantee of memorable  times.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sculpture on the Green, Saturday May 17

Fearrington Village Resident Forrest Greenslade is a man of many talents, and fortunately for the residents of Chatham County, he is very generous in sharing them.
This Saturday, at the opening reception for the first Town of Pittsboro sculpture show Sculpture on the Green, viewers will get to see Greenslade’s latest creation, a Green Man, and hear him read at 12:30 p.m. from children’s poetry book “Haicooo: Little Poems for Children.”  In addition to the wonderful sculptures sited throughout the Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park, attendees to the reception, that runs from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., will be treated to live music by Tokyo Rosenthal, a sand sculpture demonstration by award winning sand sculptor Sandi Adams, and bubbles!  All is free. The show will be at the park, which is at 304 Old Rock Springs Cemetery Road, through June 15.
“Haicooo” Little Poems for Children,” was written by Greenslade. The book’s delightful drawings were done by his daughter Kathryn Armstrong.  “My green men sculptures are the most popular pieces that I made,” Greenslade said.  This one I made for the Sculpture on the Green is one by two feet and hangs on a wall or a tree. He is concrete over a steel mesh armature, with a beard made of 100-year-old reclaimed tin roof tiles.  He has a tarnished bronze patina over the concrete. He also has my very last set of antlers. I am in search of antlers and horns.”

A clay work by renowned potter Mark Hewitt will be on exhibit during the opening. Other artists include Jeff Hackney, Edwin White, Janice Rieves, Joe Kenlan, Jenny Marsh, Andrew Dixon, Steve Cote, Stevenson McNeil, Hunter Levinsohn, and as well The WingNut Artists, a group of folks who have come together to create large-scale installations. 
Bring a picnic or take advantage of the food trucks that will be at the park party, Tailgater Toby (, and Little Dippers Italian Ices. 
The idea for this show came from Paul Horne, Parks Planer for the Town of Pittsboro who wanted a venue in Pittsboro to highlight the marvelous talent of Chatham County sculptors.
Look for this show to become an annual event celebrating our rich, local sculptural talent, the beauty of the award-winning Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park, and you, our valued citizens!

-Deborah Meyer, Sculpture on the Green Event Coordinator
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