Supporting Healthy Communities: Focusing on the Built Environment

Last Thursday, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission hosted a conference and presented "Massachusetts Healthy Community Design Toolkit." Attendees included Mass in Motion coordinators and partners concerned with the built environment (that's us!), public health advocates, regional planning councils and agencies, and city and town planners. PVPC presented their new document, the Healthy Community Design Toolkit. You can read the full toolkit here (PDF), which is a great resource for public health advocates that are interested in improving the built environment

It is well understood that a community benefits from having clean air and water and an active population.  But what about the connection between a community's built environment and health output? There is a growing body of research that links the two. There is much evidence that walkable, bikeable communities have a lower incidence of obesity and obesity-related ailments than their auto-oriented counterparts. Understanding how to make a community "walkable and bikeable" is one of the central tasks of this toolkit.

MassBike was glad to contribute to the development of this toolkit. Executive Director David Watson sits of the Built Environment Community of Practice of the Massachusetts Partnership for Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, the group who commissioned the creation of the toolkit and provided oversight to the project. This toolkit has already proven useful in how we tackle problems in the communities we work in through our Bikeable Communities Program. If you have time, take a look for yourself and see what lessons can be applied in your city or town.

Finally, be sure to check out our Advocacy Toolkit "Shifting Gears" (PDF). Our toolkit complements PVPC's as it details a number of best practices for local advocates and includes an overview of the political process and how to make the case for bicycling.

As part of our Bikeable Communities Program, we offer a number of services, such as Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects, Bikeability Assessments to evaluate a community’s current state of bike-friendliness, and Bicycle Communities Trainings to help local advocates engage with key stakeholders and understand how to improve local infrastructure conditions.

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