Positive impacts on active living can be made when municipal leaders consider health, including improved access to opportunities for physical activity, when updating or adopting comprehensive or transportation plans, regulating land use through zoning, and determining infrastructure investments. Realizing an active community through access to everyday physical activities, such as walking and biking and the availability of open space for recreation, depends on good land use and transportation policies.
Comprehensive Plan Updates
Municipalities can use their required comprehensive plan update process to increase opportunities for active living. Adding health goals, policies and outcome measurements to the plan is one way to do this. Goals and policies that increase options for physical activity include:
- Promoting mixed-use development, transit-oriented development, infill development and street and trail connectivity
- Addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety
- Increasing the number of parks, open spaces and recreation trails
- Improving access for all residents to existing recreational and natural area
Healthy Zoning Regulations
Zoning regulations are a powerful land use tool for promoting active living. The use of zoning to promote compact, mixed-use and transit-oriented development as well as pedestrian- and bike-friendly street design standards are strategies to improve access to active living.
Promote compact, mixed-use and transit-oriented development
Establishing a minimum – rather than a maximum – density in mixed-use zones that include residential, commercial and office uses ensures there are enough people and development to support a lively, interactive destination.
Increase walking and biking through pedestrian- and bike-friendly street design standards
Municipalities can establish design guidelines and standards for pedestrian corridors and roadways that support walking and biking. One approach is the complete streets model. Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete streets policies can be included in comprehensive plan updates, zoning codes, bike and pedestrian plans and site specific or redevelopment plans.
Examples of Local Policies
Fort Collins 2008 Bicycle Plan Fort Collins has a goal to create a community wherein choosing bicycling as transportation is an easy choice. The 2008 Bicycle Plan maintains this goal and expands opportunities for residents and visitors to Fort Collins to incorporate bicycling into their daily lives.
Cities and towns can incorporate transportation plans in their comprehensive plans to increase options for active transit, such as biking, walking, and public transportation, and to improve access to public facilities, commercial amenities, and recreation and natural areas.
Municipalities can use their transportation plan update process to increase opportunities for active transit, such as biking, walking and public transportation. The plan can also be used to improve foot and bike access to public buildings, commercial amenities and recreational areas. One way to do this is to add health goals and policies to the transportation plan during required updates.
Goals and policies that increase options for active transit include:
- Taking the “complete streets” approach to all planning;
- Encouraging compact, mixed-use and transit-oriented development;
- Establishing dedicated pathways for pedestrians and cyclists;
- Addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety at crossings, along traffic corridors, on routes between residential areas and schools and in other public transportation projects;
- Establishing, increasing or improving public transit options; and
- Improving access for all residents to existing public buildings, commercial businesses and recreational or open space areas.
Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook – Authored by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, the workbook is intended to be used during the development of a complete streets policy.
Healthy Infrastructure Investments
Municipalities can focus infrastructure investments on walking, biking, public transit, and access to recreation and natural areas.
Target infrastructure investments on walking and biking
Municipalities can focus infrastructure on walking, biking and access to recreation. The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) can prioritize projects to build sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes. An annual review can judge how well CIP infrastructure projects match general plan policies.
Utilize joint use agreements to increase recreational opportunities
Municipalities can partner with school districts to share the costs and responsibilities of building and maintaining park and recreation facilities and making school grounds available to residents during non-school hours.