ULI Reinventing Roads to Improve Health
Van Nuys Boulevard is like a lot of arterials in Los Angeles
and across the country — a main drag that puts a heavy
drag on public health.
That’s especially true where Van Nuys Boulevard passes
through the Pacoima neighborhood.
“This is one of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods in
terms of health outcomes,” says Jonathan Nettler, director
of the Urban Land Institute Los Angeles. “It has among
the city’s highest concentrations of childhood obesity,
diabetes and strokes.”
Physical activity such as walking and biking can help prevent chronic disease, but Van Nuys Boulevard does more
harm than good in that regard. With few crosswalks, scant
shade and no buffer between the sidewalk and five lanes
of traffic, the corridor gives people in Pacoima little reason to get out of their cars and on their feet.
But that may change. The Pacoima leg of Van Nuys Boulevard is one of four places where local chapters of the
Urban Land Institute (ULI) are leading demonstration
projects aimed at helping corridors invite greater physical activity and provide other health benefits. The others
are Vista Avenue in Boise, Charlotte Avenue in Nashville
and Federal Boulevard in Denver.
Funded by a $250,000 grant from the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, the projects will identify and apply
specific remedies to each corridor and help ULI create a
nationwide model for developing healthy corridors based
on lessons learned.
One of the strategies being considered in Pacoima is to
put Van Nuys Boulevard on a “road diet,” Nettler said.
“That’s where you narrow or eliminate vehicle travel lanes
to increase the space for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Once stakeholders finalize Pacoima’s strategy, temporary “pop-up” changes will be made sometime in 2016,
Nettler said. What happens after that depends on how
the city and the community respond, but the hope is that
permanent changes follow.
Pounding the Pavement
for Better Health
Courtesy of LA DOT
Vista Avenue in Boise
allows for very little
physical activity along
Photos by Jimmy
Walking Tour of Van