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Ideas for Action
Health, Planning & Community Design


Community design influences residents’ mode choice, impacts the ability to be physically active, affects opportunities for social interaction, shapes the natural environment and informs personal food choices. Planners and land use officials can design environments that provide opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating.

Click on each heading below for expanding information on ways to improve residents’ health through planning and community design.

Develop farmer’s markets and community gardens.

Introduce or modify land use policies and zoning to promote, expand, and protect community garden and farmers’ market sites, including vacant city-owned land and unused parking lots.

Improve the nutrition environment.

  • Adopt zoning policies that restrict fast food establishments near schools and playgrounds and limit the density of fast-food outlets in residential communities.
  • Increase access to safe, free drinking water to encourage water consumption over sugary drinks. Adopt building codes requiring access to and maintenance of drinking water fountains.

Preserve open space and greenways.

Preserving open space and creating trails, urban forests and farms, community gardens, paths, and greenways provides attractive destinations and recreation spaces that improve air quality and quality of life while fostering a sense of community and improving residents’ mental health and physical activity opportunities.

Encourage pedestrian activity.

General plans, zoning codes and other planning requirements can be modified to increase the safety and feasibility of walking. Examples include:

  • Street designs that consider the needs pedestrians and cyclists (e.g., standards for lane widths).
  • Revisions to parking standards to address the negative impacts of minimum parking requirements on the pedestrian environment.
  • Installing traffic calming improvements (e.g., bulb-outs, traffic diverters, pedestrian islands and expanded sidewalks) that slow or channel auto traffic and address safety considerations.

Make walking, biking and transit the preferred transportation choices for more trips.

  • Provide a mix of moderate- and high density development within walking distance of transit stations to increase transit ridership
  • Create a pedestrian-friendly environment to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use. 
  • Reduce auto dependency and roadway congestion by locating multiple destinations and trip purposes within walking distance of one another.

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