a Complete Streets policy, which ensures that projects are
planned and designed to meet the needs of every community member, regardless of their age, ability or how they
travel,” says Dan Burden, director of innovation and inspiration of Blue Zones LLC in Minneapolis, Minn.
Albert Lea immediately passed a Complete Streets policy
and looked at its built environment in a different way.
“We revitalized downtown, slowed down traffic, widened
the sidewalks, increased access to the two lakes that sit on
either side of the downtown and filled in more than seven
miles of sidewalk gaps around the lake,” says Kehr. “Our
community-wide walking and biking went up 40 percent.”
Not only that, but the community well-being — an overlooked benefit to increased physical activity — went up 2. 8
percent between 2014 and 2016. Also, smoking dropped
considerably and now is less than 15 percent, far below
the national average of 18. 5 percent in 2015. According
to a recent study, the environmental transformation led to
a foot-traffic influx, revitalizing the city’s downtown. Restaurants added outdoor dining areas and 15 businesses have
opened since 2013. The changes added $1.2 million worth
of property value, and developers have invested more than
$1.5 million in building permits since 2013.
After implementing changes in another Blue Zone area —
Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan Beaches — smoking
rates fell 30 percent while obesity rates dropped 14 percent. Also, the number of people who consume at least
five servings of fruit or vegetables a day jumped 10 percent, and the cities secured an additional $3.8 million in
state and federal funding for future planning initiatives.
Encouraging Americans to Walk
It’s no surprise that cities such as Albert Lea and others
are looking to increase the physical activity of residents.
In 2015, the Surgeon General issued a Call to Action called
Step It Up! encouraging the promotion of walking and
walkable communities. Step It Up! includes five strategic goals, which are: to make walking a national priority;
design communities that make it safe and easy to walk
for people of all ages and abilities; promote programs and
policies to support walking where people live, learn, work,
It’s about making walking
the natural and easy choice.
Photo by Kent Kanouse
Photo by InSappho We Trust
Hermosa Beach, Calif., is another Blue Zones area, where smoking and
obesity rates dropped after implementing Blue Zones’ programs.