Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Future Factsrss

Surgeon General’s #StepItUp Campaign Highlights Land-Use Challenges to Regular Walking

September 10th, 2015 by

New Jersey Future resources can help communities evaluate, improve how accommodating they are to pedestrians and cyclists.


Graphic courtesy of Smart Growth America.

Graphic courtesy of Smart Growth America.

New Jersey Future applauds U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s Sept. 9 call for people everywhere to walk more — making the strong and obvious connection between land use and our health. In his call to action, Dr. Murthy highlighted walking (or wheelchair rolling) as an easy and low-cost activity that virtually everyone can do frequently, that will have real public-health benefits in the fight against such chronic diseases as diabetes and heart disease.

However, Dr. Murthy acknowledged that there are many places that present significant physical barriers to regular walking, and he called on professionals and citizens across all sectors to work together to reduce those barriers.

“We agree with Dr. Murthy that many aspects of the way we have designed our communities prevent people from walking regularly,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “The absence of sidewalks or streetlights; important destinations like work, school or shopping that are too far apart from each other to reach by walking; and the presence of crime and dangerous traffic are all serious deterrents to regular walking. We strongly echo the surgeon general’s call for communities and professionals — planners, engineers, transportation experts, local officials and others — to work together to improve public health by addressing those barriers.”

Evaluating Municipal Walking-Friendliness
New Jersey Future has long advocated for a “smart growth” approach that would help foster the development of exactly the kind of communities Dr. Murthy highlighted. In 2014, as part of its Creating Great Places To Age in New Jersey report, New Jersey Future conducted an evaluation of every municipality in New Jersey against four key land-use characteristics that can help make a community more accommodating to people who don’t drive:

  • The presence of a mixed-use downtown or center, offering a variety of destinations near each other;
  • A densely intersecting street network, allowing shorter and more direct trips;
  • A large number of destinations in proximity to one another, allowing people to accomplish more with fewer trips;
  • Access to transit, particularly local bus service.

The full list of municipalities and how each one scored on this evaluation is available here as a PDF. In addition, for communities that want to make themselves more friendly to those who don’t drive, a guide to municipal best practices is available for download here.

More information on how communities can foster smarter growth is available at New Jersey Future’s Smart Growth Primer, and the organization’s annual Smart Growth Awards highlight best practices in smart-growth planning and development throughout the state.

Complete Streets Resources
For communities interested in making their streets more welcoming to pedestrians, wheelchair users and cyclists, the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center offers extensive resources, including a list of all counties and municipalities that have adopted Complete-Streets provisions. The state of New Jersey has a strong and comprehensive Complete Streets policy that also offers a variety of resources. (The state’s Complete Streets policy was a 2013 Smart Growth Award winner.)

Surgeon General Resources
The surgeon general’s call to action page also includes links to a variety of resources. The full call-to-action report is downloadable here, and an executive summary is available here. The announcement includes a list of how each sector can help improve walkability and get more people walking, and provides a Partner Guide (downloadable PDF version), an infographic (downloadable PDF version), and a Pandora playlist of “walking” selections.

Watch the #StepItUp call-to-action video:

Leave a Reply


© New Jersey Future, 16 W. Lafayette St. • Trenton, NJ 08608 • Phone: 609-393-0008 • Fax: 609-360-8478

Are you receiving our Future Facts newsletter?

  • Latest news on land-use policy issues
  • Research and reports
  • Upcoming events
  • Every two weeks

Click to subscribe