This week the City launched the planning process that will result in the Official Community Plan – a document that will outline the city’s priorities for growth and development over the next 25 years. As Greg mentioned in his post earlier this week there are opportunities for people to come out and discuss the future of our city – What are the priorities? What do citizens want their neighbourhoods and city to look like? What changes do we need to make in the way we plan and build to make Regina a vibrant, healthy, and rewarding city to live in?

I hope that a lot of the conversation focuses on ways to minimize sprawl, increase overall density, and improve neighbourhood and city-wide connectivity (walkability, bikability, transit, etc.). And really, it should focus on these issues. Regina, like many North American cities, has continued to build outwards for many years and the costs of this inefficient style of development (in particular the infrastructure deficit) are starting to catch up with us. It’s time to re-think our city.

In addition to the monetary costs of low-density, car-centric development, there are also very personal costs – things that can impact our health and stress our daily lives. Here are a collection of recent articles and studies to keep in mind as we plan for the Regina we want to see:

1) Bad neighbourhood design can impact your health: Along with lack of access to healthy food, those who live in outlying neighbourhoods with low walkability have poorer physical health (from less exercise) and poorer mental health (from isolation).

“We used to call them ugly, but now social geographers and medical practitioners label the disconnected sections of the city “obesogenic,” meaning environments that promote obesity.” (via Globe and Mail)

2) Long commutes can stress your marriage: A recent Swedish study found a 40% increased risk for divorce amoung people with long commute times. The reasons include increased stress and anxiety, potential gender inequalities in the home, and reduced time spent with loved ones.

“[Commuting is]annoying, especially if you have to do it by car, and a long trip home every night can put someone in a bad mood. It also takes time that could otherwise be spent with a partner or kids, and may put partners on drastically different schedules, which is hard on any union.” (via Jezebel and Grist)

3) Car commutes might be crushing your soul: I’ll let Grist spell out this interesting finding from a recent ‘Urban Mobility Report’

“The UMR also included a “commuter stress index” [PDF]. We wouldn’t put too much stock in this number as a psychological measure — it’s actually just another way of quantifying how bad rush hour really is. But it’s definitely true that being stuck every day in a sluggish line of can’t-drive assclowns wears on you. Using “stress index” as shorthand for “sheer brain-horror of rush hour driving index” just makes sense.”

For contrast– a recent report from the NYC Department of Health showed that people can get a lot of their physical activity just by going about their day using active transportation (walking, biking, even transit):

“The majority of New Yorkers who take transit to work, for example, get eleven minutes of physical activity each day from recreation. But they move for 57 minutes a day just to get around, whether it’s to walk to the bus or run some errands during lunch. New Yorkers who walk or bike to work get slightly more exercise than transit riders as part of their daily routine, while drivers get less than half as much. The city’s compact development and strong transit system are the key to incorporating activities that lower New Yorkers’ risk of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.” (via StreetsBlog)

Creating an Official Community Plan that promotes a well-connected, well-designed city should be a priority moving forward for all Reginans regardless of whether you want to live in the heart of downtown or a quick bus trip away.