Northeast Area Study: Planning for a Healthier Built Environment
Written by Julie Spriggs, CZO, Senior Planner, Town of Zebulon
While Wake County consistently ranks as the healthiest county in North Carolina, there are pocket areas where poor health is more prevalent. The Northeast area, which includes six municipalities in Wake, is one of these pockets.
A recent transportation study conducted by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) of this area included a focus on livability and health to provide strategies that encourage better health outcomes. The report developed guiding principles to help planners and policy-makers promote public health through its built environment.
A Tool for Planners and Policymakers
The Northeast Area Study (NEAS) covered the communities of Wake Forest, Knightdale, Raleigh, Wendell, Zebulon and Rolesville in Wake County, plus Bunn, Franklinton, and Youngsville, for a total of 374 square miles. The NEAS recommendation will be included in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which is the guiding document for projects that receive federal and state funding for all modes of travel.
The NEAS developed guiding principles to help planners and policymakers promote public health through its built environment. Healthy Choices, Preservation, Return on Investment, and Personal and Community Health are key components.
Examples of strategies to promote health through better transportation planning include creating choices so residents can choose to do healthy things, such as taking a bicycle ride along a greenway or to a park. Planners can interconnect streets to promote active modes of transportation, such as bicycling or walking to farmers’ markets and other destinations.
Preserving community identity, promoting healthy behaviors in the environment in which we live by providing places to recreate that are reachable by active modes, and promoting programs that encourage healthy habits are all part of the study. The NEAS also promoted local bus circulation routes and easier access to public transportation.
Some of the suggested design elements for the communities are to increase sidewalk widths to 6 feet to accommodate more pedestrians, streetscape design to include furniture, lighting, signage, and weather protection for pedestrians, along with secure bike parking racks, high-visibility crosswalks, sidewalk connectivity, and pocket parks.
The Northeast Area Study reports are available online at http://www.neareastudy.com with more information.