Monday, May 1, 2017

Are we living in an active, healthy town?

Virginia Town & City, April 2017
One of my Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon* defaults is to notice anything with a bicycle, bike icon, or other related bicycle-related component on it. This week I spotted the April 2017 Virginia Town & City magazine at work, which features an article by Susan DeFrancesco, entitled "A place that's fit to live in." It is particularly fitting since May is both National Bike Month and the Ride Smart Challenge. The author sent me a PDF of the article. Take-aways include these tidbits for a community, many for me which seem obvious - but I am in the weeds - do others think our town is an "activity-friendly environment"? The article mentions that such communities:
  • Encourage walking, bicycling, and active play and recreation
  • Adopt and implement transportation policies and practices that create complete streets, streets designed and operated to be safe and accessible for all users
  • Prioritize pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure
  • Have an environment where healthy foods are available and accessible
  • Have a comprehensive plan that promotes healthy and active living
Poverty Creek Trail System Map 
I think the Town of Blacksburg has most of the components to some degree, and we too could join the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Campaign if someone were to champion it; we have a bicycle plan, some town staff know at least what complete streets is (and is not), we have a Corridor Committee that annually prioritizes the "missing sidewalk-segments" list by high, medium, and low priority, we have a robust downtown Farmer's Market (that accepts and encourages SNAP at double-value), and the transportation chapter of the Town's Comprehensive Plan (being updated through 2017 - take the survey!) mentions the pedestrian and bicycle routes, including the Huckleberry Trail, and other shared-use pathways. We also have two health-food stores, a fair number of organic food products in our grocery stores, a vibrant running and a walking/hiking store, and nearby we have Pandapas Pond and the 17-mile Poverty Creek Trail System. And there is more if you look. 

What is your take on it? 

I am just a lowly daily bicycle commuter and a runner in a small college town, admittedly on the fringe, so I cannot claim to represent the majority. All 5 of the bullets above seem wise, but what seems walk-able or bicycle-friendly to me may not seem so to others. What the Town has listed online may not align with your personal experience as to what makes for a good, activity-friendly environment.

*The Baader-Neinhoff Phenomenon is "where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly."

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