17 October 2011

Obesogenic Motorgenic Cincinnati

I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. - Romans 7:19

I believe this newly invented word obesogenic is helpful in thinking about how our environment and culture affect our individual bodies. I have had times in my life in which my environment was much healthier, and as a result I was physically much healthier.

For example, in 1986 (I think), I lived for a few months in Spain. While I was there, I had no access to fast food, junk food or even any dairy products. However, I ate whenever I wanted and drank whatever I wanted. I found when I returned home that my clothes were all loose and I felt fantastic. My tastes in food had even changed. Since then, I have tried to recreate that diet, but it is difficult because diet is so integrated into our culture and lifestyle.

I find more and more that the idea that we are all independent and that we are each as individuals totally responsible for our well-being to be false. Yes of course I am responsible for my own actions, but it is an acutely American way of thinking that disallows common action for improvement.

For example, I hate bike riding,... at least in Cincinnati. Yes the hills are one reason, but mostly I ride in the basin, so that is not the main reason. It is just way too dangerous, especially with children. And to take two kids with me on bikes is a huge ordeal. Just getting 3 bikes out the door with 3 helmets and bike locks and lights if it is dark, is just ridiculous. And downtown is not much different than many suburban areas (except that you have a garage to keep all the bikes). I really don't see that many suburban kids out riding beyond their cul-de-sac... because cars rule and it is too dangerous. Nothing like this.

I saw an item a few weeks ago a woman was prosecuted after her son was killed by a car while jaywalking. Frankly, I don't think jaywalking should even be a crime on any residential street. The prosecution of this poor woman is just an indication of how backwards American thinking is about walking vs cars. Cars rule, period.

We live in a motorgenic environment. Motorized vehicles rule our public streets and pedestrians and bicyclists are scared and pushed to the fringes. This attitude ruins cities. It destroys shopping streets, public spaces, streets and sidewalks.

Cars and walkers can only successfully mix if the actions of the car are restrained and the actions of the walkers and bikers are liberated.

We need to change from a motorgenic environment to a muscle-powered, socially oriented, pedestrian friendly environment.

‘We live in an obesogenic environment – a plethora of fast food outlets, reliance on cars, and offers enticing us to eat larger portions …’Professor Mike Kelly – as quoted in the Telegraph 8th October 2003

Join the movement to move your feet


5chw4r7z said...

Whenever something is suggested in the city the first thing people worry about is how it will affect their drive. I tell them who cares, get out and walk.
Someday I'd like to see Cincinnati do a Sunday Streets program like other cities. Shut down one street, maybe Vine from Fountain Square to the Gateway Quarter. Or 5th St.
Somewhere we have to stop the craziness and start designing cities for people again and not design for cars.

Quimbob said...

I don't think biking in the basin is dangerous but I am an adult & a solitary rider. I have no idea what riding with kids is like.
Can your kids, now or in the future, ride to school?

Albert said...

Your children ride on the sidewalk until they're 15. Adults are supposed to ride in the street (pretty safe in the basin, as Quimbob says) Weekend traffic, particularly in the morning in the basin is very light. Give it a try. And read up on the utility of helmets.

VisuaLingual said...

Schwartz, the recent Midpoint Midway, or whatever it was called, did shut down 12th St. for a few evenings, and it seemed to work out well, accomplishing what you describe. Second Sunday on Main is similar. I think a lot of people would throw a fit if something like that became more frequent!

5chw4r7z said...

VisuaLingual: people get freaked out just from me suggesting it.

Anonymous said...

After so many years living downtown (5 now?) we find ourselves reluctant to make choices that will put us into the car. Of course, we also chose to be downtown because we wanted to stop making choices that wasted half our lives in the car... People say "what can you do downtown?" - the simple answer is we LIVE here. Walking to parks, to the library, to shows, to concerts, to games, to shop, to wander...

5chw4r7z said...

Just got back from 4 days in Manhattan. The biggest impression I have is how skinny everyone was there.