Close your eyes for a moment and picture a midwestern suburbanite. Really focus on getting an image in your head for that person, the color of their hair, the car they drive, the home they live in, their dog, children, and spouse. Focus on it a bit. Not contrast that person with your image of city dweller of similar economic status. With both these individuals in mind ask yourself, which one is in better shape? Which one spends more time outdoors walking around? Which one uses their car less frequently or might not even own a car? Which one is unknowingly in the middle of a health crisis?
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the person in the middle of a health crisis is the suburbanite. The person who escaped the city for a better quality of life only to have the unintended consequence of a less active life. It is not that either the suburbanite or the urban dweller are gym rats; instead it is that the suburbs were designed when gas and land were cheap. No need to think long-term of how the track homes built to the lowest legal standard, in the middle of nowhere, and only accessible by car would affect future generations. It turned out that it created a whole bunch of health issues that doctors are only now beginning to understand.
There is a fix. Suburbs all over the United States are saying no thank you to the failings of the past and redesigning their villages and cities with walkability as the primary form of transportation. All the sudden the grocery stores and corner markets come back in vogue. Parks, churches, community centers, schools, and restaurants are now placed in walking distance of one another. Parking lots take a back seat to places accessible to foot traffic first and foremost. Drive-through windows close and street side table seating takes its place. Neighbors starts interacting with one another, build relationships, and everyone’s overall quality of life increases.
The future can look bright, but it starts with closing your eyes or perhaps just looking in the mirror.