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Did You Know?

While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Stop sprawl, free Smart Growth help for local governments!

Free help is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encouraging governments to implement smart growth practices.

What is Smart Growth? It’s is a planning and land use philosophy that promotes well thought out, livable community development.

If you live or work in a community that is growing, please share this info with your elected officials! The deadline is October 25, 2011.

Why should people in Chicagoland care about this? Because the built environment and how we develop has everything to do with how people choose to get around.

Consider this unfortunate but entirely common scenario:

You have to go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled. The closest pharmacy is at the supermarket about two miles from your subdivision. The long, winding roads and cul de sacs in your neighborhood add about another half mile to that distance. If you had the time and energy and the weather was nice, you might decide to walk it, but there are no sidewalks on the main road connecting your subdivision and the shopping center. That distance is bikeable. If you were brave you could ride your bicycle on the four lane road but you’d have to share a lane with cars moving at about 40 miles per hour, and once you got to the store there’d be nowhere to lock up your bike.

If you were lucky enough to live near a transit stop you’d find that the bus stop at your destination doesn’t connect to a sidewalk. If it were summer time, you could make your way across the grass to the supermarket parking lot because there wouldn’t be any big snow banks to contend with. You’d still have to navigate another quarter mile across the parking lot. The cars are constantly backing in and out of spaces, everyone’s in a hurry, everyone’s running an errand and people aren’t expecting to see you. After you’d picked up your prescription you’d have to turn around and start all over again.

You think about what it would be like to do this with your kids in tow, or on crutches, or with a cane. What would most people choose to do when faced with these active transportation options? They’d drive instead. That is, if they can afford a car and no disability or age restrictions prevent them from driving.

If we want people to choose healthy, environmentally responsible active transportation, we need to make sure that every part of our built environment will foster this choice; not only our roadways, but the developments and neighborhoods that they connect.
Tools from Smart Growth America can help local governments to see the big picture and ensure that new developments are planned to promote healthy living.

Help your local officials to start thinking ahead and let them know about this opportunity.