Urban Planet: The Effect of Local Ownership on Civic Health, The Best US Cities for Walking and Biking

Urban Planet is a daily roundup of blogs from around the world dealing specifically with urban environments. We’ll be on the lookout for websites outside the country that approach themes related to urban experiences and issues.

• Current planning principles tend to favour local businesses over large national retailers because of their ability to foster healthy, engaged cities. But does this preference have any  empirical foundation? According to Stacey Miller at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, yes – for three reasons. Local business owners invest their personal and financial interests in their community’s well-being. Cities with greater local economic autonomy can more easily marshal resources in tough times. Local businesses create environments that foster social ties. These factors appear to be borne out in several recent studies, including one recently published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, which found lower rates of mortality, obesity and diabetes in communities where locally owned businesses are prevalent. (Institute for Local Self-Reliance)

• Portland is often lauded as America’s most bike friendly city. But according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s biannual benchmark report, there are other US jurisdictions that outshine PDX. Boston takes the top spot for cities, with 13.9 percent of the city’s commuters walking to work (compared to 10.5 percent nationally). Alaska comes first among states, reportedly due to the high price of gas. The Alliance suggests that cities with complete streets policies and human-centred design tended to perform best. (GOOD)

• Canadians increasingly prefer walkable neighbourhoods with access to transit. This may not seem like shocking news but it is a significant shift. A recent study by the Royal Bank of Canada and the Pembina Institute found that, if home price were not a factor, more than 80 per cent of homebuyers would trade a large house and a long car commute for a modest or attached dwelling where they can walk to amenities, take rapid transit to work and enjoy a commute of less than 30 minutes. Pembina’s report, Live Where You Go, which focuses on the Greater Toronto Area, suggests five policy tools to make living where we work and play easier. These include: a cost location calculator, changes to development charges, taxing surface parking, reducing minimum parking requirements and using transit funding to support location efficiency.

• Calgary is often portrayed as the sprawling boom town of the west. But according to this article by Spacing contributor Jason Markusoff, published in the Calgary Herald, the city is actually growing in a “smart growth” style. During the past year, 42 per cent of new homes were built within the built-up part of Calgary. At the same time, many of the middle-ring suburbs, including Deer Run, Sundance, Scenic Acres, Edgemont and MacEwan, have lost population over the past few years.

Image from Beach650

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