The City of Columbus is located in Franklin County, Ohio. Recent county data (2005) shows 59.1 percent of the adult population is overweight or obese compounded by only about 50 percent meeting physical activity guidelines. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Regular physical activity is associated with decreased risk for obesity, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and premature mortality in general. Obesity and physical inactivity are also associated with lower quality of life as both are associated with depression, osteoporosis, joint pain and other musculoskeletal complaints. Walking and biking to work, school or for errands, increases physical activity levels. Community design, how shopping centers, schools, homes and roads are built, in recent years has lacked walking and biking infrastructure such as bike racks, sidewalk connections and wide sidewalks preventing physical activity and contributing to the increase in obesity and overweight. The mission of the Healthy Places program is to create places that foster physical activity as a part of everyday life. To foster physical activity as part of everyday life, infrastructure for walking and biking such as bike racks, wide sidewalks and sidewalk connections from the sidewalk at the street to the front door or to the building next door must be available. Currently, these features are not required in new development in the City of Columbus. The goal of this public health practice is to promote physical activity by increasing walking and biking infrastructure in new City of Columbus development.
The steps to accomplish this goal are:
Objective 1. Establish a process for the Healthy Places program to request walking and biking infrastructure in new development applications in a 12 month period.
Objective 2. Over two years increase the number of finalized development applications that include walking and biking infrastructure specifically by a) increasing bike racks by 50%; b) increasing sidewalks that connect to front door by 25%; and c) increasing five foot sidewalks by 25%.
Research sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has shown that community design that includes sidewalks and “end of ride facilities,” which include bike racks increase walking and biking. Sidewalks that are five feet wide are recommended by The Institute of Transportation Engineers. The five foot width allows two people to walk side by side comfortably or for people to pass each other. Walking and biking especially increases physical activity if people leave the car at home. Walking and biking to work, school or for errands such as the Post Office and grocery store includes physical activity in daily routine. This practice accomplishes the promotion of physical activity by increasing the number of bike racks, sidewalks connections and wide sidewalks throughout the City of Columbus. Establishing a process for Healthy Places to request walking and biking infrastructure in new development was accomplished in one year. The rezoning staff review is the most appropriate process for the Healthy Places program to request walking and biking infrastructure in new development. Healthy Places began participating in the rezoning staff review in September of 2007, exactly one year after the start of the Healthy Places program. In the past two years (January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2009) a total of 73 new development applications were finalized by the Building Services Division. The objective of increasing bike racks by 50% was exceeded with 82% of applications adding bike racks to their development. Increasing pedestrian connections by 25% was also met with 26% of applications adding pedestrian connections to their site. Finally, the objective of increasing five foot sidewalks by 25% was not met with 17% of applications increasing their sidewalk width to five feet. Above percentages will
Nationwide, obesity and overweight have been increasing in both adults and children. At the same time, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership reports that about half of children walked to school in 1969 and only 15 percent do so today. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Active Living Network reports that nine of ten trips are made by car, even though 25 percent of those trips are less than one mile-an easily walkable distance in many cases. The City of Columbus, which makes up most of Franklin County is seeing similar trends in both health and walking and biking. The most recent county data (2005) shows 59.1 percent of the adult population is obese or overweight and 37.6 percent of third graders are overweight. This is compounded by only about 50 percent of the adult population meeting the Surgeon General’s physical activity recommendations. The Alliance for Walking and Biking Benchmark Report just released in February, 2010 report statistics for walking and biking to and from work and for overall trips. Data are presented for the states and the 50 largest metropolitan areas. The report shows the majority of Columbus residents do not walk and bike to work or for other errands.
Therefore, residents are missing opportunities for physical activity. For many of the indicators presented in this report, Columbus’s rates are lower than the average for the 50 metropolitan areas. For example, the 50 metropolitan areas’ average for people who walk to work is 4.8 percent compared to only 2.7 percent for Columbus residents. When including all trips, the 50 metropolitan areas’ average is 11 percent for walking trips and 0.9 percent for biking trips. Columbus is again lower with, 8.2 percent walking and 0.3 percent biking for all trips. Walking and biking to work, school or for errands, instead of taking the car, increases physical activity levels. Community design, how shopping centers, schools, homes and roads are built, determine whether or not it is possible to walk or bike to these locations. In the past, walking and biking was part of daily routine. In recent years, the newer community design have lacked walking and biking infrastructure such as bike racks, sidewalk connections and wider sidewalk. Research has shown that community design, especially sidewalks, parks and open space, distance to destinations, aesthetically pleasing places as well as multi-use paths and bike racks increase walking and biking and therefore increase physical activity. Physical activity has been shown to reduce or prevent obesity as well as many of the leading causes of death in the City of Columbus. Obesity is also risk factor these for these causes of death and is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Several key events occurred over time that set the stage for Columbus Public Health and the Columbus community to be ready for a program addressing community design. A local Mobilizing Action thru Planning and Partnerships (MAPP) process had been underway for some time, involving key stakeholders and agencies. This process supported the need for regular tracking and reporting of health indicators.
In 2004 Columbus Public Health began reporting on a concise set of indicators. These were selected for their ability to communicate to broad audiences, have valid data available and that Columbus Public Health would have the ability to effect some change. Several nationally accepted sets of indicators were considered during the selection process. Around the same time, Columbus Public Health recognized the link between public health and the built environment. Smart Growth principles were used to renovate the new health department building in 2001. In 2005, the Health Commissioner attended a NACCHO-American Planning Association Seminar which solidified the idea for the Healthy Places program that could focus on healthier community design. In response to the overweight and physical
Agency Community RolesColumbus Public Health Healthy Places program is responsible for the implementation of the rezoning application review. However, the role is much broader than the review itself. Through the review process, Healthy Places educates four different levels of private businesses and city government about the health benefits of community design and environmental change. First, through the participation of public health in the rezoning staff review process, multiple city departments are educated about the linkage of public health to their work. The Coordinator is able to educate other city departments through one on one conversation about the rezoning application and the benefit of including walking and biking infrastructure. Second, the rezoning application is submitted by zoning attorneys, developers and architects.
These entities have a direct effect on community design and environmental change. Since walking and biking infrastructure is not required, the comments, which have a brief public health explanation, are educational. These entities are voluntarily adopting the walking and biking infrastructure as shown by the outcomes of the Healthy Places rezoning comments. Additionally, a few applications are now incorporating walking and biking infrastructure even before the Healthy Places review. Third, Development Commission is the citizen advisory body that reviews rezoning applications, finalizes the application and makes a recommendation to City Council for approval or denial of the rezoning. The Commission receives a packet of information about the rezoning and a list of comments from city departments. Healthy Places comments are included within that list again educating another group about the health benefits of walking and biking infrastructure. Recently, an applicant did not include the bike rack requested by Healthy Places and the Development Commission required the bike rack to be included before they would approve the application. Finally, Healthy Places comments are included in the City Council packet. City Council makes the final decision on the rezoning application.
Walking and biking infrastructure in the development is noted in the legislation as a “Whereas” statement. The walking and biking infrastructure recommended by Healthy Places and not included in the development is noted in an attachment within the packet. Healthy Places recommends walking and biking infrastructure in the educational capacity only. Rezoning applicants do not have to include the infrastructure. Support from fellow city departments and the Development Commission have been invaluable to the implementation of walking and biking infrastructure. Multiple divisions within the City of Columbus collaborate in the walking and biking infrastructure review. Collaborators include the Department of Development Building Services Division and the Planning Division; Department of Recreation and Parks and Department of Public Service Division of Mobility Options. These departments and divisions were consulted and gave input on the walking and biking infrastructure that is currently requested in the rezoning staff review. Additionally, Healthy Places finds common ground with the departments and divisions on some applications. Usually the departments and divisions are reviewing a rezoning application based on zoning code or policies. However, the departments and divisions do make requests above the required zoning code and policies. When those requests involve walking and biking infrastructure, they call the Healthy Places Coordinator to discuss the infrastructure requests. If the infrastructure request is related to walking and biking, the Healthy Places Coordinator will make the request as well. This way, two different city departments or divisions request walking and biking infrastructure increasing the likelihood the infrastructure will be included. Development Commission is very interested in creating an environment.
Costs and ExpendituresColumbus Public Health is the health department for the City of Columbus. The Healthy Places program was created to address the health impacts of community design. Community design is how places are built for humans. Examples include shopping centers, schools, houses and roads. Before hiring a full-time staff person, a retired City of Columbus urban planner worked part-time to research the program objectives and create the program work plan. Columbus Public Health staffed the program with a full time urban planner as the coordinator in the fall of 2006. The Healthy Places Coordinator position is funded by the General Fund. To establish a process to be involved in community design for new development, the Coordinator set meetings with the Building Services Division staff. The was to learn the most effective method to promote walking and biking infrastructure in new development. The Building Services Division was chosen because all development applications are submitted to and ultimately approved by this division.
It was decided the rezoning process was the best process for Healthy Places involvement. Zoning is the designated land use allowed on a site or piece of property. For example, residential, commercial and industrial are all zoning designations. A rezoning is needed when the planned development does not meet the current zoning designation or for example, if a grocery store wants to locate on land zoned for residential homes. A staff review process already existed for rezoning applications. All city departments have the ability to review the rezoning applications. Columbus Public Health had previously only reviewed applications when an industrial or chemical development was proposed. The Healthy Places program wanted to review applications and request walking and biking infrastructure such as bike racks, sidewalk connections and wider sidewalks. Staff review occurs once a month and is estimated to take five to 20 hours per month depending on the number of applications. On average nine applications are reviewed per month in the past two years (2008-2009). This is considered a low number from previous years due to the economic and housing downturn. The rezoning application review time is part of the regular Healthy Places Coordinator duties. Healthy Places coordinator is a full time position funded by the general fund. No additional funding is necessary for the rezoning review process.
ImplementationThe goal of this public health practice is to promote physical activity by increasing walking and biking infrastructure in new City of Columbus development. The purpose of the rezoning review is to create environmental change through walking and biking infrastructure. The steps to accomplish this goal are:
Objective 1. Establish a process for the Healthy Places program to request walking and biking infrastructure in new development applications in one year.Task 1. Contact the division or department that is responsible for approving new development. In the City of Columbus, it is the Department of Development, Building Services Division. Task 2. Speak to the department about the importance of the health perspective in development and specifically, walking and biking infrastructure. Resources for this type of information include Robert Wood Johnsons Foundations Active Living Research and Active Living Network, NACCHO Community Design and CDC Healthy Places. Task 3. Request to be part of reviewing new development applications. Participate in an existing process if possible. In the City of Columbus, it is the rezoning review process.
Objective 2. Increase the number of finalized development applications that include walking and biking infrastructure in two years specifically by a) increasing bike racks by 50%; b) increasing pedestrian connections by 25%; and c) increasing five foot sidewalks by 25%. Task 1. Decide the walking and biking infrastructure to request in the new development process. Resources to consider within the local government: neighborhood residents using the walk audit tool; the planning office which is responsible for planning for the growth of the city; the transportation division which controls the streets and sidewalks and most likely has a pedestrian and bicycle coordinator; the division that works with development, in the City of Columbus, this is the Building Services Division. Task 2. Create a method for recommending specific walking and biking infrastructure.Different types of development-for example residential and non-residential such as office and shopping centers-may need different walking and biking infrastructure. Healthy Places recommendations for all residential areas, walking and biking features recommended are: Bike racks at community centers, parks and multi-family apartment complexes; Pedestrian connection to the adjacent developments and bus stops; Five foot sidewalks (wider than required in the City of Columbus). Healthy Places recommendations for non-residential developments are made based on destinations, including bus stops, within a half mile of the development: If there are not other destinations within a half mile of the site or only a bus stop five foot sidewalks and bike racks are recommended; If another destination is next to the development site, bike racks and five foot sidewalks recommended as well as a pedestrian connection from the street sidewalk to the front door; pedestrian connection to the adjacent development; and signage at the entrance and exit of the parking lot alerting drivers to pedestrians. Task 3. Participate in the regular process for reviewing new development applications. In the City of Columbus, this is the monthly rezoning staff review. Task 4. Ensure that your comments are not only seen by the development applicant but the decision makers as well. In the City of Columbus, this is the Development Commission and City Council.
It took one year to meet with the Building Services staff, decide how to comment on new development, be included in the rezoning staff review, decide the walking and biking infrastructure that would be requested in the review and how to review the rezoning applications. The rezoning staff review process is monthly. It is estimated that five to 20 hours are spent per month reviewing rezoning applications. Time varies depending on the number of applications for the month.
To promote physical activity by increasing walking and biking infrastructure in new City of Columbus development. Establish a process for the Healthy Places program to request walking and biking infrastructure in new development applications in a 12 month period.
1) Meet with the Building Services Division to determine the best process to request walking and biking infrastructure.
2) Actively participate in a process to request walking and biking infrastructure by the end of the 12 month period ( September 2007).
Meeting notes were taken at the Building Services Division meeting. The Healthy Places Coordinator was then given a login to the computer software used in the staff rezoning review process. First comments were submitted in September 2007. Comments are officially recorded in the staff rezoning review software. Staff review occurs once monthly. On average there are 9 applications per month with about 7 applications receiving comments.Building Services staff has had no issues with Healthy Places participation. Other city departments are contacting Healthy Places when walking and biking infrastructure is involved. Finally, walking and biking infrastructure is being included showing the process is working.T
he outcome to participate in a process in which walking and biking infrastructure could be requested was short-term and accomplished.Over two years, increase the number of finalized development applications that include walking and biking infrastructure by a) increasing bike racks by 50%; b) increasing pedestrian connections by 25%; and c) increasing five foot sidewalks by 25%.
1) Comment on rezoning applications on the monthly basis.
2) Track walking and biking infrastructure that was included in the development due to Healthy Places recommendations.
Individual applications are tracked in an Excel spreadsheet that notes the month of staff review, month of the finalized application and whether or not the walking and biking infrastructure recommendations were accepted. If recommendations were accepted, the walking and biking infrastructure is listed.Rezoning staff review and Development Commission, the entity that finalizes the application, both hold monthly meetings. Rezoning applications are entered into the spreadsheet at the time of staff review. If a rezoning application accepts or does not accept walking and biking infrastructure recommendations are noted after the application is finalized by the Development Commission.Including walking and biking features in a new development upon the request of Healthy Places is the main source of feedback. Currently, 67% of applications are changed to include walking and biking infrastructure requests. The intended and achieved outcome is to increase the walking and biking infrastructure in the City of Columbus. The outcome is short term and permanently changes the built environment.
City of Columbus departments and divisions now leverage Healthy Places as a partner and source of information. The Coordinator is regularly invited to the table instead of asking to be invited. Momentum is seen as other departments start to talk about health and encourage walking and biking infrastructure. Development Commission is increasingly supportive of walking and biking infrastructure and is requesting it be included in new development. Development applications are beginning to be submitted to the rezoning staff review with walking and biking infrastructure already included. Healthy Places continues to receive community requests as well.
In 2010, a coalition of neighborhoods on the north side of Columbus has requested a comprehensive walking map project not only creating walking maps for their individual neighborhoods but connecting the neighborhoods to each other and to destinations outside their individual neighborhood. Each walk audit is an opportunity to educate neighborhood residents about walking and biking infrastructure and environmental and policy change. This education creates sustainability through building a network of residents willing to advocate for their neighborhoods and for city policy overall. The momentum is present in the City of Columbus for walking and biking infrastructure. Healthy Places is now an established Columbus Public Health program. The synergy with non-traditional partners throughout the city and the programs within Columbus Public Health illustrates a commitment to physical activity, environmental and policy change. Within the last two years, the Mayor of Columbus has created the Institute for Active Living at Columbus Public Health tasked with reducing diabetes and childhood obesity as well as the Division of Mobility Options in Public Service tasked with ensuring a city conducive to walking and biking. Within Columbus Public Health, the State of Ohio has funded the Creating Healthier Communities program and several private donors along with the city have funded Healthy Children Healthy Weights.
Ultimate sustainability will come in the form of policy change. Currently, the walking and biking infrastructure is not required in new development. However, several policies are in process which will require walking and biking infrastructure. Two examples mentioned previously are the Complete Streets policy and the parking code changes. Healthy Places leverages the resources of other City of Columbus departments who are tasked with and have the authority to change policies and code leading to environmental change. Healthy Places educates about the public health benefits of these changes, provides statistics and research information and is willing to publically testify and support the changes to City Council. In a few case, the Coordinator has participated in research and meetings to actually design the policy change. City of Columbus departments have begun to leverage Healthy Places as a resource as well. Public Health is about people, their behaviors and how to make the population healthier. The city departments recognize that the health position is supported by research and statistics. The departments call on Healthy Places and appreciate the support from a non-traditional partner that brings a different perspective to the table. The Columbus Public Health Institute for Active Living, Creating Healthier Communities and Healthy Children Healthy Weights are not only financially supported from a variety of sources but continually receive requests for their services and invitations to new collaborations and committees. They in turn, invite Healthy Places to the table where environmental changes have not been previously represented. An example is the Healthy Children Healthy Weights Coalition. This Coalition focused on children zero to age five and their physical activity and nutrition.