Many benefits from Complete Streets

NEW ULM – A public television host, author, adjunct professor and active transportation advocate from Boston area pumped the merits of the Complete Streets policy and design to Brown County officials Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Fenton said for the first time in American history, this generation’s off-spring are not projected to outlive them due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition. “It’s due to the electronic and junk food environment we created,” Fenton said.

He said the Complete Streets program creates safer, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their travel mode. It also promotes better health, economic, and environmental outcomes. Examples include painted road lanes designed for bicycles and motor vehicles, traditional and raised sidewalks, trails, median crossing islands, bicycle parking, street trees, planter strips and ground cover.

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said studies show 35 to 40 percent of Brown County adults are obese, above the 25 to 30 percent state average.

“Obesity leads to heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and certain types of cancer,” Moritz said. “Children spending six or more hours a day watching television, videos and DVDs are likely to become obese. I can’t imagine how they get the time to do that.”

Fenton said people who spend 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity a day or are even moderately physically active will enjoy a much healthier life than those that don’t.

“When my doctor learned I had high cholesterol, he told me to exercise as much as I can,” Fenton said. “Physical inactivity and poor nutrition kills more U.S. people than anything else, causing 365,000 deaths a year. It also raises health-care costs.”

Fenton did a walk audit of parts of New Ulm and Sleepy Eye. He praised the City of New Ulm for building a box culvert underpass of West Highway 14 just south of Cash Wise Foods.

“I was thrilled to see all the bicycles at the public school,” Fenton said. “I’d like to see 20th South Street converted to a Complete Street.”

He praised roundabouts for reducing traffic congestion, vehicle exhaust pollution and fuel wasted at stoplights. He said the National Association of Realtors forecasted future trends including Complete Streets development.

“Realtors should know what they’re talking about,” Fenton said. “They want to create developments including Complete Streets features.”

“Get kids outside and they’ll be active,” Fenton said. “Parents need to take the time to go on walks and bike rides with their kids. One school found a way to deal with too many kids driving or riding vehicles to school. They required all students who didn’t walk away from school to wait five minutes in the school cafeteria while the rest of the students left the building. It got down to kids telling their parents not to drive them to and from school.”

Earlier Tuesday, Fenton presented “Health Jeopardy: Building a Healthier Workplace” at an event at Turner Hall. His appearance was part of Hearts Beat Back: The Heart of New Ulm Project’s Sixth Annual Worksite Summit. The presentation sought to help worksite wellness leaders learn the importance of creating environments and policies that encourage physical activity as a routine part of daily life.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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