#WalkBikeForward: Join us on our journey honoring key moments and people that have shaped our field as we celebrate 20 years of creating active, healthy communities.
Dan Burden is Director of Innovation and Inspiration for Blues Zones. Over the past 40 years, he has helped citizens in more than 3500 communities promote active transportation. He was formerly Florida’s Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator, Senior Urban Designer with Glatting Jackson, and founder of Walkable Communities Inc.
The Evolution of Active Communities
Twenty years ago, there were two kinds of people out walking and biking — those who couldn’t afford a car and those dressed in Lycra or workout clothes. Now when you are on a trail, you’re flabbergasted how many people are in street clothes. We’ve discovered that biking and walking are what most people like to do. And you see more of them doing it every year.
One breakthrough has been that bike and pedestrian plans no longer just sit on the shelf. In those days, the people carrying out the plans did not know how to make a crosswalk or how wide a bike lane should be. Now these plans are being implemented.
A lot of the big firms avoided getting into walking and biking — it was up to small firms like Alta Planning + Design to get it rolling. Alta had the ability to understand how big biking and walking would become when no one else did. And they had the energy and talent to make things happen. Without Alta, it would have turned out differently.
Another thing that began around 1996 was that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) started putting an emphasis on preventing disease, rather than putting all their resources on curing disease. So healthcare providers began promoting healthy lifestyles.
Connected Neighborhoods, Today and Tomorrow
What we are doing now is creating oases for bicycling and walking — a place you can do it safely. But these oases are growing thanks to the demographic trends of more Millennials and Baby Boomers wanting to live in connected neighborhoods. People are waking up to the importance of this to the future of the housing market. The National Association of Realtors talks about the significance of walking and biking. I’m convinced that we are going to get our cities back to a walkable, bikeable scale, with a better density of people and mixed-use developments. And walkable villages will emerge in farther out communities.
Huge breakthroughs over the past five years have been protected bike lanes and bikeshare. In a few years, they’ll be everywhere. I can arrive at a train station or airport, and the bikeshare is waiting for me with a trailer for my luggage, and I’ll have a protected bike lane all the way to the hotel.