Now before you say, “ why are we talking about being healthy?” just hear me out I will get to the point of urban design in a bit . So we all know what the French Paradox is and for those of us who don’t well it’s basically a theory that even with all the high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat the French population and other parts of Europe have a low CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) death rate compared to the United States. The know reasons for this paradoxical conditions is the optimal diet that they have in fruits and vegetables and regular physical exercise (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1768013/). So coming back to my point what does this have to do with urban design, I think that the French Paradox is a byproduct of the urban design that has shaped a healthy and active lifestyle for most of the European population. When we think of most european countries or even see documentaries or pictures , most people are seen walking or riding bikes while walking and riding a bike in United States is more of a hobby than a regular day to day life style. Most of our population lives in the suburbs and our suburbs aren’t designed in a way that would promote bicycling or walking for going from point A to point B. An automobile or some sort of public transportation is much more prefered than any physical activity.
So what is wrong with our urban design, being one of the most technologically advanced nations, we are actually a way too dependent on technology and in this case we are heavily dependent on automobiles. “ North American cities lack the density of pedestrian activity” (Levy, Contemporary Urban Planning).
Also mentioned in the Contemporary Urban planning by Levy is how “we want cars to be happy”. Having a car is necessity that produces another necessity of having an efficient traffic flow which over the years has become the main goal of traffic engineers and planners. Most suburbs are designed in a way that we need a car to even get to the gym to workout and yes how ironic is that?
I don’t think I would want to live in neighborhood where kids can’t walk to school or ride a bike to school. Taking Rutgers University New Brunswick Campus for example we are forced to ride the bus because we have no other choice but take the bus from one campus to another. Making us even more lazy, I have noticed how some students get on the bus because they don’t want to walk for a few more minutes, they would rather site in the bus for 10 to 15 min rather than just walk from Rutgers Student Center to Scott Hall which is must quicker. But on the contrary I do have some hope after seeing the newly finished Livingston Campus Apartments. It’s not the answer but it’s a start of the solution to a huge problem. Having apartments over stores is the ideal way to decrease the use of cars for the basic needs of a person. This is just a small example but its up to us and for the future generation to decide if we want to walk more or drive more.