It is common today to talk about health only in terms of physical health. The “Active Living” program is often considered the solution to all health problems. In fact, even as cities enact “Active Living” programs to solve obesity, they discover the programs are ineffectual if the society is fragmented or the individual is marginalized. Social health is the foundation for physical health. This has serious implications for planning and urban design. A healthy city must have a healthy social immune system.

Cities across the US are learning to bike-share. On March 14th, the Portland City Council submitted a request for a proposal to find a vendor to install and operate a bike share program. “Bike-share will be a great addition to North America’s most bike-friendly city. It’s a simple, attractive alternative to making quick trips by car” Portland Mayor Sam Adams stated on the Portland Bureau of Transportation website.
It should come as no surprise that more and more young people are doing without cars. An article in the New York Times a few weeks ago discussed the difficulty auto manufacturers are having selling new cars to young people. No matter how cool they make them, young people aren't taking the bait. It's a cliche, but it probably is true, that when young people graduate from college they tend to move to the big city. A car would only complicate their lives - instead of a car, they take a taxi or rent a car for a trip out of town. And this way, they don't have to pay exorbitant parking fees when the car is not needed.
What is livability? When we talk about livability we are concerned with individual and social development, with safety and comfort, and we are concerned with piazzas, with special quality, architectural quality, and with transportation systems.
The 2012 IMCL International Urban Design Award will be presented to Prof. Arch. Ettore Maria Mazzola for his consistent leadership in designing urban environments that celebrate community, and lift the spirit. As shown in his reconceptualization of modern mass housing areas such as Corviale, Rome, and Zen, Palermo, his urban designs are hospitable for all, and show special concern for more vulnerable population groups, children, elders and the poor. Areas of social housing in Italy built in the Modern style have become utterly unlivable and are socially and physically unsustainable. Mazzola’s Master Plan for the redesign of social housing in Palermo transforms monotonous single function housing blocks into a multi-functional small town filled with piazzas and surrounded by a green park.
These transportation planning rules only seem to be simple, their application is indeed a difficult job. But often simplification helps in the discussion and enforcement of environmental requirements. Rule 1: Make every effort to accommodate the real needs of people. Do not forget the children, the elderly and the disabled. Prepare your plans and programs in cooperation with the public concerned. Urban planning and transportation planning is a social, psychological, economical, ecological, architectural and engineering job. Rule 2: The prosperity of a city does not depend on private car traffic, but on accessibility in general, on the amenity of its streets and open spaces and – to put it more succinctly – on its genius.
When Andrew Howard and Jason Roberts began the first Better Block project, they couldn’t “go by the book”. Their guerilla street redesign tactics did more than just turn a few heads; their unorthodox approach transformed communities. The Better Block Project is simple in form: The project is a demonstration project which creates temporary bicycle infrastructure, landscaping, café seating and more to illustrate active streets and places. “Cities around the U.S. are looking for tools to help redevelop communities that enable multi-modal transportation while increasing economic development, and reducing carbon emissions. The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the build-out process and provide feedback in real time.”
The 2012 IMCL International Urban Revitalization Award will be awarded for Ecuador's nation-wide program, "The Plaza: A Place of Encounter", a visionary project to revitalize social life and economic vitality by restoring the country's historic plazas. Jacobo Herdoíza, Director of this project, will give a public presentation at the 49th IMCL Conference, and will receive the Award on behalf of Ecuador’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Ministerio Coordinador de Patrimonio).
When the weather grows colder, healthy food enthusiasts mourn the loss of their weekly farmers market excursion. There is no need to fret, however, because farmers near and far are providing nutritious, organic, and local products year round. Farmers markets are expanding to provide winter root vegetables, squashes, fruits and greens along with artisan breads, meats, and cheeses even during the coldest months. Early January marked the opening of Dorchester’s Winter Farmers Market, in a primarily low income and crime ridden incorporated neighborhood of Boston. Access to healthy fresh produce can be difficult to obtain for many of these residents.
The gap between rich and poor in the US has widened markedly during the last 20 years. Middle class working families are rapidly slipping into poverty, and the poor increasingly see problems of health (over 30% obesity rates, with concomitant diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, etc.) and social health (unemployment, violence, and crime) devastating their neighborhood. These problems cluster in the poorest neighborhoods, diminishing opportunities for individuals to lift themselves out of the vicious cycle. Aspects of the physical environment accelerated these problems. Absence of healthy food, unwalkable streets, poor public transit, neglected main streets, lack of safe streets, squares and parks, and absence of accessible employment opportunities and satisfactory schools demonstrate a long-standing negligence on the part of planners and elected officials to maintaining fundamental conditions to assure health, well-being, and minimal economic and educational standards. A number of significant reports have recently been published proposing policies and strategies for addressing this problem.
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