With nearly a 34% obesity rate, Memphis is ones of America’s most obese cities. There are various reasons why this exists: poor eating habits, lack of health education, and being physically inactive. One way to combat this growing health epidemic is to help create an environment where it is safe and efficient to build activity into the daily routine for Memphians. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create better systems for transportation that promote walking, bicycling, and public transportation use (because this is often times linked to walking and biking). The real challenge here is changing personal habits and preferences in the face of real safety concerns or cultural stigmas associated with those modes of transportation. Fortunately, the City of Memphis has a solution to overcome the obesity barrier and encourage more active transportation in our community: Implementing Complete Streets!
Complete Streets serve many purposes; increasing access to and safety of active transportation modes being one of them. Walking, bicycling, and public transportation use not only combat obesity, but help to prevent other health-related problems such as diabetes, colon cancer, depression, hypertension, stroke, and osteoporosis. One of the biggest concerns to getting people more active is a personal concern about safety, largely stemming from reactions to how our street environment has been designed and built over the last 50-60 years. If street is built that seems unsafe to walk down, people will not walk down it and will, instead, use their cars. Complete Streets are designed to fix this problem. A complete street is one that enables safe access to all users, young or old, in a wheelchair or walking, riding a bike or riding the bus, or driving a car.
The city of Memphis, in partnership with Smart Growth America and Livable Memphis, will host a Complete Streets Public meeting that will focus on the design elements that make a complete street. This introductory presentation will be held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38111 on June 18, 2014 at 6pm. Come out and join the City of Memphis and Smart Growth America for this informative public meeting. Registration is not required; just show up prepared to soak in great information on the Complete Streets movement!
It is now time to get active! Encourage and educate family and friends on the benefits of active transportation and how it can positively impact your life. Most importantly, just don’t talk about it, be about it! Instead of driving to your neighborhood store, take the bus or ride a bike. Instead of going to the gym, take a bike ride down one of the many safe bike lanes that were created just for you! With the implementation of Complete Streets, Memphis is most certainly be on its way to becoming a healthier and more active community.