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Open Streets for a Healthier Howard County

Posted By Ian Kennedy, Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 24, 2015

By Ian Kennedy,Director of Communications, Horizon Foundation 

Open Streets Howard County starts with the simple and proven idea that the design of our streets and neighborhoods should support and promote healthy living. Residents of communities that are built to encourage walking and cycling typically enjoy improved health outcomes, as well as many other benefits.

Around the country, communities have recognized these benefits and are taking steps to make it easy for people of all ages, abilities, incomes, and ethnicities to move around safely and comfortably in their chosen mode of transportation.

With rising rates of chronic diseases related to unhealthy lifestyles, Howard County should join this effort and set about creating a safe, connected and comprehensive network of streets that are "open” for everyone. After all, our roads make up a great part of our public spaces, and they should reflect the kind of community we want: accessible, sustainable, healthy, welcoming, and connected.

Why Open Streets?

To enjoy the numerous and lasting health benefits of physical activity, adults need at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity and kids need 60 minutes. By creating a safe and accessible network of sidewalks, trails, pathways and transit facilities in Howard County, we can make it easier for everyone to accomplish these goals – whether by walking to school or work, riding a bike on errands, or running to catch the commuter bus.

The Horizon Foundation’s mission is to promote the health and wellness of people who live or work in Howard County. As part of our healthy lifestyles initiative, we’ve been working to make it easier for residents to choose nutritious beverages and food. And now we are working with our community partners and local residents to expand access to healthy transportation choices.

At our annual meeting in 2014, Mark Fenton, a national expert on transportation and health, spoke about the ways that community design could improve health. He gave a similar talk later that same evening, which you can watch here:

In addition to building awareness and support for healthy community design, we want Howard County Government to consider implementing a "Complete Streets” policy requiring that future road projects – from new construction to repaving – incorporate safe facilities for ALL users. A Complete Streets policy would also help ensure the successful implementation of the County’s recent Bicycle Master Plan and the Pedestrian Master Plan it is currently updating.

We know that creating a healthier built environment does not happen over night. It will require time and investments, but we can start by building awareness and support for this work. We are reaching out across Howard County to talk to families, organizations, leaders and others about ways we can make active and healthy transportation a reality.

Interested in finding out how? We’d love to meet you! Come and learn what Open Streets Howard County is about. Come to the Open Streets Howard County kick off, our celebration of "people power”, on June 13th in Columbia. We have a bunch of fun activities planned, but the signature attraction of this event is a demonstration of how an existing road built only for cars can function better for people, whether they choose to drive, cycle, walk, run, or take transit.

Our long-term vision is a comprehensive, connected, economically competitive, and well-used network of streets and facilities that support healthy transportation choices and accessibility for everyone in the community, regardless of age, ability, income, or ethnicity.

If you share this vision, here are ways you can help:

· Like "Open Streets Howard County” on Facebook

· Mark your calendars and plan to attend our Open Streets party on June 13th!

· Sign up to receive email updates

Tags:  Health Funders  Horizon Foundation  March 2015 Members' Memo  Open Steets 

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