~ Sprawl ~

"Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built in the last fifty years, and most of it is depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy and spiritually degrading..."

James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere.

From 1982 to 1997 the Syracuse metropolitan area grew by only 2% in terms of population, but it sprawled to cover 43% more land.

What is Sprawl

Home From Nowhere:  "America's zoning laws...have mutated into a system that corrodes civic life, outlaws the human scale, defeats tradition and authenticity, and confounds our yearning for an everyday environment worthy of our affection."  Author James Howard Kunstler draws examples from his home town of Saratoga Springs, NY.

Why Johnny Can't Walk to School.  An important part of America — the small school you could walk to in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors — is disappearing.  It’s being replaced by mega-school sprawl — giant educational facilities in remote, middle-of-nowhere locations that no child can walk to.

The Historical Roots of Sprawl.  Before World War II, many Americans lived in small towns and villages, and dreamed of owning their own farm or homestead. After the war ended, more and more Americans moved to the larger industrial cities, bringing with them these visions of home ownership.  In 1992, some 44 years later, tract housing, suburbia and automobile-centered transportation are no longer seen as a solution.  Rather, they are seen as part of a complex problem which affects all aspects of our lives from environmental to economic and social conditions.

Living on the Edge: The Costs and Risks of Scatter Development.  For many living in far flung houses and subdivisions, emergency response times for police, ambulance and fire fighters exceed national standards.

Sprawl and the Environment

Is traffic getting any better, anywhere?  Even where new highways have been built?U.S. Environmental Protection Administration: "Why should we be concerned about sprawl?"

Natural Resources Defense Council:  "Sprawling land development is gobbling up the American countryside at an alarming rate — around 365 acres per hour according to government figures."

Sierra Club:  "As we sprawl more, we drive more.  And as we drive more, we pollute more."

The Audubon Society:  "In prosperous but sprawl-fatigued America, limiting pavement is becoming a hot political issue."

Friends of the Earth:  "We have exhausted the model of moving farther and farther from our central cities."

Sprawl and Health

  • Could smart urban design keep people fit?  Science News article summarizing the research on sprawl and health. Reid Ewing, at the University of Maryland, says the dozen strong studies that have probed the relationships among the urban environment, people's activity, and obesity have all agreed: "Sprawling places have heavier people."

  • "Living in the suburbs can make you sick": To improve our health, this study suggests we should build cities where people feel comfortable walking and are not so dependent on cars.

  • Study: Driving longer means larger waistlines:  A survey of Atlanta residents found that for every extra 30 minutes commuters drove each day, they had a 3 percent greater chance of being obese.

  • Obesity and Sprawl:  The Connection Tightens:  CitiStates chairman Neil Peirce says, "An obesity epidemic has seized America. And the suspected villain is none other than America's prized development icon — suburbia."

  • Suburbs Ponder Weighty Matter: "People living in communities developed before 1947 traveled on foot or by bike more than three times every two days. People living in areas developed after 1977 got out of the car barely once."

  • The Built Environment and Public Health:  Richard J. Jackson, Director of the CDC's Center for Environmental Health, points out the many health implications of sprawl -- everything from respiratory health, to water quality to obesity.

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