Transportation Association hosts Designing Healthier Communities event
February 19, 2016
By: Michilea Patterson
People representing different organizations and counties came together to exchange ideas on how to build and design with health in mind.
Communities in Motion, a foundation of the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management (GVF), hosted a public forum on designing healthier communities through education and transportation projects. The second annual health conscious discussion took place in King of Prussia on Wednesday.
“The foundation focuses on three core areas; education, healthy living and the environment,” said Maureen Farrell, GVF assistant director and Communities in Motion COO.
Farrell said the annual event talks about issues that are a huge part of the foundation’s mission. More than 60 people attended the forum which had six panelists speak on various programs and projects. Farrell said now is the time to have such a discussion because it’s the beginning of the year and obesity is a big issue in this country.
“Just adding walking to your regular schedule can prevent Type 2 Diabetes by 60 percent and some cancers such as breast cancer and colon cancer by 20 percent,” she said.
The forum was also used to discuss projects that would help protect the environment. Farrell said about six million people will die every year because of air pollution by 2050. She said there are so many projects happening that focus on healthy living and she hopes the attendees of Wednesday’s event were inspired.
Brean Flynn, GVF manager for Travel Demand, was one of the panelists and talked about the mission of Communities in Motion. She said the mission is to build sustainable transportation in the Southeastern Pennsylvania region through education.
“Over the last five years, Communities in Motion has been working to improve the health and quality of life for our region’s residents and to foster economic development throughout the region,” Flynn said.
The foundation did a solar car challenge with the Upper Merion School District to educate students about renewable energies. In the spring, the foundation will organize a Traffic Safety Town program in Pottstown so elementary students know how to safely walk and bike along streets.
Expanding or implanting projects that allow different modes of transportation such as walking and biking was a big topic discussed on Wednesday. Greg Krykewycz of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission discussed how to encourage more bicycling in communities. He said research shows that the majority of people are interested in bicycling but have concerns. He said there is safety in numbers and as more people bike then the activity becomes less dangerous on streets. He also mentioned the benefits of having a bicycling map that shows which streets are the most bike friendly so pedestrians know the safest route to use.
Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Sean Moir reminded the audience that roads in the past were narrow paths that had multiple uses. The roads were shared by pedestrians, wagons and horses until automobiles started to become more popular, he said. Moir said people are now asking for more of those multi-purpose lanes and paths again.
“Townships were created in Pennsylvania in large part to facilitate freedom of movement and it is our responsibility at the local level to provide access to all modes of transportation,” he said.
Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline was another panelist that discussed the importance of different modes of transportation.
“One of the things that have always been an important part of my life both personally and in the public sector is making sure the community that I live in and that we all live in has initiatives that promote healthy living,” she said.
Kichline said Chester County has a free online resource handbook that shows all the modes of transportation including trains, buses and trails. She said encouraging different forms of transportation is a “key factor in promoting healthy living.”
“Our trail system in Chester County has been a huge asset,” Kichline said adding that she wants people to not only use the trails for exercise but also as a mode of transportation to work.
In addition to multiple forms of transportation, one panelist talked about implanting green parking spaces. James Pudleiner of Walker Parking Consultants said to be efficient it’s important to have a balance of parking spaces which means not too little but also not too much.
“It’s really combining architecture, technology and natural systems to create sustainable parking to be efficient,” he said.
He said sustainable parking can also be created through efficiency by leading to less cruising which means fewer emissions into the environment.
“Whether you’re walking, cycling, or running; we’re asking you to hear and listen to the panelists to encourage you to change your daily habits,” Farrell told the audience Wednesday encouraging them to invest in healthier communities.