The leading role that nowadays information and popular culture give to health-related issues makes us understand that the human body and its well-being are - today more than yesterday - at the centre of what care the most to contemporary society.
The environmental culture has sensitized the populations about the need to live in healthy places and to adopt adequate lifestyles to avoid incurring in more or less serious pathologies. So the health, prevention, fortification and protection of the body become an obsession that invests social and political debate, but which more and more also affects the conformation of urban space and architecture, as cities are the habitat where most of the world's population is concentrated. Therefore - as known - treating diseases, especially those tending to become chronic, has an high cost for public health and the introduction of alternative lifestyles contributes to reduce welfare spending, an important rationalization to be carried out especially in times of crisis. The World Health Organization recognized the importance of everyday physical activity to ensure the health of human beings and has defined the phenomenon of obesity as "one of the greatest challenges to public health in the 21st Century", by introducing the parameter of 5,000 steps every day (i.e. a walk of about 3 km), as a target helping to maintain health and to halve the risk of death (600,000 deaths/year in Europe derive from a sedentary life). Therefore, it’s important to promote actions that allow motion to be introduced into the daily movements of the population, in a way that it won’t be an excessive effort for people in the daily routine.
Starting from these considerations, transdisciplinarly linking citizens' health and urban form, the research project aimed to study how to make cities more liveable and how to stimulate physical activity in the daily lives of the citizens.
The research activity focused on the relationship between "urban movement" and "health" and on the identification of interventions to be carried out in urban spaces as a way to encourage the so-called "sweet" movement to achieve significant benefits under the profile of health and more generally of well-being.
The first part of the work focused on the collection of urban policies and best practices at the international level in order to compose an updated state of the art. Among others, the cases adopted by the City Council of New York have been deeply examined, with the mayor Bloomberg proposing innovative guidelines, aimed at promoting physical activity and health in urban planning; Paris launched the slogan "Manger / Bouger"; the Canadian Government (in the "Toronto Charter" for physical activity, 2010) launched similar initiatives in particular with the Montreal case.
Other Best Practices
- Green Connections in San Francisco
- Walk [Your City] in Raleigh, North Carolina
- Play Streets, New York
- Portland's 100th Bike Corrals, Portland
- The Metamorphosis of NYC Streets - Time's Square, New York
- FanWalk, Cape Town
- Sønder Boulevard, Copenhagen
- Cycle Super Highways, Denmark
- Magic Blocks, Bucharest
- Plaza del Pueblo Gallego, Vigo
- Exhibition Road, London
- Superkilen, Copenhagen
- Largo do Machado, Rio de Janeiro
2. The second phase focused on the definition of a redevelopment strategy for the existing city based on the principles derived from the medical sciences and urban experiences already realized. General data on the benefits to human health have been collected according to the main idea of an active lifestyle. In summary:
- Using the stairs for the equivalent of 20 floors a week decreases the risk of death by 20%
- The population that lives in cities with sidewalks on most roads is 47% more likely to undertake a moderate active life for at least 5 days a week and 30 minutes a day.
- Those using public transport are active for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Those living in multifunctional and livable communities compared to those who live in car-dependent cities enjoy an average improvement in physical activity of over 160%.
- Multifunctional urban centers are associated with a 12% reduction in obesity.
- Walking involves a saving of about € 700,00/year calculated between fuel and public health expenses
Urban strategies for an active life
1. Increase pedestrian areas and bike paths for daily mobility
2. Encouraging multi-use neighborhoods and connection networks for urban systems
3. Create urban axes equipped as a backbone of a branching system
4. Increase urban public transport and create mobility interchange nodes (exchange nodes between public transport, private transport and soft transport)
5. Increase trees and vegetation
6. Valuing open spaces not only for leisure time but also for everyday use
7. Increase outdoor sports and recreation functions
8. Design outdoor gyms dedicated to specific age groups
9. Enhance recreational paths (table tennis, checkers and card games on fixed tables, etc.)
10. Create synergies between public and private open spaces
11. Create a communication that encourages active life (signage, advertising, educational programs)
12. Play Streets (temporary playgrounds)
13. Urban farms
3. The third phase – experimental- examined the case study of the city of Rome. Sample data were collected in schools concerning the lifestyle of the local population and reporting from the Lazio Region about the health of the studied citizens.
The research has also identified, in a proactive way, transformation strategies to the urban and metropolitan scale in the city of Rome in order to propose a concrete experimentation at the local scale, to encourage general motion in the population and particularly walking or cycling in the city.
Indeed, very significant and problematic data emerged. Rome is a city scarcely equipped with efficient public transport infrastructures for metropolitan transport: only 37 km of underground, a network of trams and buses mainly on roads to be shared with private vehicle traffic. As a result, 67% of 5 million daily journeys take place on private vehicles.
Starting from these findings, a strategic reference framework focused on the public mobility nodes was developed, in agreement with the Urban Planning Department of the Municipality of Rome, which identified 7 significant areas on which to intervene to improve the general performance of the system.
Among these 7 places, it was identified a particularly interesting first node - at "Teano" underground station - on the C line of the subway, in a suburban area between the Pigneto district and the Centocelle district.
The experimentation based on a survey / census of the critical issues related to the specific theme of mobility, taking into account the opportunities offered by the reference area, has produced low-cost urban requalification project proposals, pursuing the goal of making attractive for users the extension of pedestrian and cycle mobility and the use of public transport as well. The project puts existing resources close to different schools, the metro station and a series of abandoned green areas. The redevelopment of the routes connecting roman casali and archaeological areas, the construction of cycle paths and footpaths, the setting up of areas equipped for active outdoor life is planned: gyms for the elderly, playgrounds for children, sports areas, break areas and the network connection, areas for street show and street art.
The examined node helped to develop a general methodological strategy that is considered to be effectively used with results of certain interest in other specific situations. Particularly, the strategy used for the redevelopment of the Cyprus Node in the 1st Municipality is being tested, also in relation to urban transformations in view of the 2016 Jubilee.