Trends in City Planning
Communities throughout the United States are turning to the concept of “smart growth” as a way of fostering walkable and close-knit neighborhoods, providing a variety of transportation choices, taking advantage of community assets, and encouraging mixed land uses (Smart Growth America, 2004). Organizations such as Smart Growth America and the Smart Growth Network represent coalitions of nonprofit organizations and government agencies working toward these goals.
The Congress for the New Urbanism has brought together architects, developers, planners, and others involved in the creation of cities and towns to promote the principles of coherent regional planning, walkable neighborhoods, and attractive and accommodating civic spaces (CNU, 2004). This nonprofit organization lists hundreds of recent development projects built according to these principles, on which the neighborhood-design ordinances of a number of cities are now based.
Traditional approaches to street and street-network design are changing in response to concerns over the impact of increasing levels of traffic on communities. The Institute of Transportation Engineers has published recommended practices for street design that encourage narrower streets in residential areas to reduce traffic speeds (ITE, 1999). A growing number of the nation’s communities have revised their land development codes to encourage greater connectivity in the street network and require improved access for pedestrians and bicycles (Handy et al., 2003).
result, many Metropolitan Planning Organizations, agencies responsible for implementing federal transportation programs in metropolitan areas, now put significant emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian planning (Chauncey and Wilkinson, 2003). Professional organizations such as the Institute of Traffic Engineers and the American Planning Association should also work to assist the efforts of local governments by developing and disseminating best practices for expanding opportunities for physical activity.
Citizens themselves have a responsibility to advocate for changes in policy so that the built environment may ultimately offer increased opportunities for physical activity among children and youth. The public may bring significant influence to bear over policy, particularly if a large and vocal constituency urges change and if prominent community groups, nonprofit organizations, and business organizations lend their support. In many communities, neighborhood associations play a formal role in the planning process and have successfully advocated for new or improved parks, additional side walks, traffic-calming programs, and other changes in the built