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  • So I'm a city planner, an urban designer,

  • former arts advocate,

  • trained in architecture and art history,

  • and I want to talk to you today not about design

  • but about America

  • and how America can be more economically resilient,

  • how America can be healthier,

  • and how America can be

  • more environmentally sustainable.

  • And I realize this is a global forum,

  • but I think I need to talk about America

  • because there is a history,

  • in some places, not all,

  • of American ideas being appropriated,

  • being emulated, for better or for worse,

  • around the world.

  • And the worst idea we've ever had

  • is suburban sprawl.

  • It's being emulated in many places as we speak.

  • By suburban sprawl, I refer to the reorganization

  • of the landscape and the creation of the landscape

  • around the requirement of automobile use,

  • and that the automobile that was once an instrument of freedom

  • has become a gas-belching,

  • time-wasting and life-threatening

  • prosthetic device

  • that many of us need just to,

  • most Americans, in fact, need,

  • just to live their daily lives.

  • And there's an alternative.

  • You know, we say, half the world is living in cities.

  • Well, in America, that living in cities,

  • for many of them, they're living in cities still

  • where they're dependent on that automobile.

  • And what I work for, and to do,

  • is to make our cities more walkable.

  • But I can't give design arguments for that

  • that will have as much impact

  • as the arguments that I've learned

  • from the economists, the epidemiologists

  • and the environmentalists.

  • So these are the three arguments that I'm going

  • to give you quickly today.

  • When I was growing up in the '70s,

  • the typical American spent one tenth of their income,

  • American family, on transportation.

  • Since then, we've doubled the number of roads

  • in America, and we now spend one fifth

  • of our income on transportation.

  • Working families, which are defined as

  • earning between 20,000 and 50,000 dollars

  • a year in America

  • are spending more now on transportation

  • than on housing, slightly more,

  • because of this phenomenon called "drive till you qualify,"

  • finding homes further and further and further

  • from the city centers and from their jobs,

  • so that they're locked in this, two, three hours,

  • four hours a day of commuting.

  • And these are the neighborhoods, for example,

  • in the Central Valley of California

  • that weren't hurt when the housing bubble burst

  • and when the price of gas went up;

  • they were decimated.

  • And in fact, these are many

  • of the half-vacant communities that you see today.

  • Imagine putting everything you have into your mortgage,

  • it goes underwater, and you have to pay

  • twice as much for all the driving that you're doing.

  • So we know what it's done to our society

  • and all the extra work we have to do

  • to support our cars.

  • What happens when a city decides

  • it's going to set other priorities?

  • And probably the best example we have here

  • in America is Portland, Oregon.

  • Portland made a bunch of decisions in the 1970s

  • that began to distinguish it

  • from almost every other American city.

  • While most other cities were growing

  • an undifferentiated spare tire of sprawl,

  • they instituted an urban growth boundary.

  • While most cities were reaming out their roads,

  • removing parallel parking and trees

  • in order to flow more traffic,

  • they instituted a skinny streets program.

  • And while most cities were investing in more roads

  • and more highways, they actually invested

  • in bicycling and in walking.

  • And they spent 60 million dollars on bike facilities,

  • which seems like a lot of money,

  • but it was spent over about 30 years,

  • so two million dollars a year -- not that much --

  • and half the price of the one cloverleaf

  • that they decided to rebuild in that city.

  • These changes and others like them changed

  • the way that Portlanders live,

  • and their vehicle-miles traveled per day,

  • the amount that each person drives,

  • actually peaked in 1996,

  • has been dropping ever since,

  • and they now drive 20 percent less

  • than the rest of the country.

  • The typical Portland citizen drives

  • four miles less, and 11 minutes less per day

  • than they did before.

  • The economist Joe Cortright did the math

  • and he found out that those four miles

  • plus those 11 minutes

  • adds up to fully three and a half percent

  • of all income earned in the region.

  • So if they're not spending that money on driving --

  • and by the way, 85 percent of the money

  • we spend on driving leaves the local economy --

  • if they're not spending that money on driving,

  • what are they spending it on?

  • Well, Portland is reputed to have

  • the most roof racks per capita,

  • the most independent bookstores per capita,

  • the most strip clubs per capita.

  • These are all exaggerations, slight exaggerations

  • of a fundamental truth, which is Portlanders

  • spend a lot more on recreation of all kinds

  • than the rest of America.

  • Actually, Oregonians spend more on alcohol

  • than most other states,

  • which may be a good thing or a bad thing,

  • but it makes you glad they're driving less.

  • (Laughter)

  • But actually, they're spending most of it in their homes,

  • and home investment is about as local

  • an investment as you can get.

  • But there's a whole other Portland story,

  • which isn't part of this calculus,

  • which is that young, educated people

  • have been moving to Portland in droves,

  • so that between the last two censuses,

  • they had a 50-percent increase

  • in college-educated millennials,

  • which is five times what you saw anywhere else

  • in the country, or, I should say, of the national average.

  • So on the one hand, a city saves money for its residents

  • by being more walkable and more bikeable,

  • but on the other hand, it also is the cool kind of city

  • that people want to be in these days.

  • So the best economic strategy

  • you can have as a city

  • is not the old way of trying to attract corporations

  • and trying to have a biotech cluster

  • or a medical cluster,

  • or an aerospace cluster,

  • but to become a place where people want to be.

  • And millennials, certainly, these engines of entrepreneurship,

  • 64 percent of whom decide first

  • where they want to live,

  • then they move there, then they look for a job,

  • they will come to your city.

  • The health argument is a scary one,

  • and you've probably heard part of this argument before.

  • Again, back in the '70s, a lot's changed since then,

  • back in the '70s, one in 10 Americans was obese.

  • Now one out of three Americans is obese,

  • and a second third of the population is overweight.

  • Twenty-five percent of young men

  • and 40 percent of young women are too heavy

  • to enlist in our own military forces.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control,

  • fully one third of all children born after 2000

  • will get diabetes.

  • We have the first generation of children in America

  • who are predicted to live shorter lives than their parents.

  • I believe that this American healthcare crisis

  • that we've all heard about

  • is an urban design crisis,

  • and that the design of our cities lies at the cure.

  • Because we've talked a long time about diet,

  • and we know that diet impacts weight,

  • and weight of course impacts health.

  • But we've only started talking about inactivity,

  • and how inactivity born of our landscape,

  • inactivity that comes from the fact that we live

  • in a place where there is no longer any such thing

  • as a useful walk, is driving our weight up.

  • And we finally have the studies,

  • one in Britain called "Gluttony versus sloth"

  • that tracked weight against diet

  • and tracked weight against inactivity,

  • and found a much higher, stronger correlation

  • between the latter two.

  • Dr. James Levine at, in this case,

  • the aptly-named Mayo Clinic

  • put his test subjects in electronic underwear,

  • held their diet steady,

  • and then started pumping the calories in.

  • Some people gained weight,

  • some people didn't gain weight.

  • Expecting some metabolic or DNA factor at work,

  • they were shocked to learn that the only difference

  • between the subjects that they could figure out

  • was the amount they were moving,

  • and that in fact those who gained weight

  • were sitting, on average, two hours more per day

  • than those who didn't.

  • So we have these studies that tie

  • weight to inactivity, but even more,

  • we now have studies that tie weight to where you live.

  • Do you live in a more walkable city

  • or do you live in a less walkable city,

  • or where in your city do you live?

  • In San Diego, they used Walk Score --

  • Walk Score rates every address in America

  • and soon the world

  • in terms of how walkable it is --

  • they used Walk Score to designate more walkable neighborhoods

  • and less walkable neighborhoods.

  • Well guess what? If you lived in a more walkable neighborhood,

  • you were 35 percent likely to be overweight.

  • If you lived in a less walkable neighborhood,

  • you were 60 percent likely to be overweight.

  • So we have study after study now

  • that's tying where you live

  • to your health, particularly as in America,

  • the biggest health crisis we have is this one

  • that's stemming from environmental-induced inactivity.

  • And I learned a new word last week.

  • They call these neighborhoods "obesageneric."

  • I may have that wrong, but you get the idea.

  • Now that's one thing, of course.

  • Briefly mentioning, we have an asthma epidemic

  • in this country.

  • You probably haven't thought that much about it.

  • Fourteen Americans die each day from asthma,

  • three times what it was in the '90s,

  • and it's almost all coming from car exhaust.

  • American pollution does not come

  • from factories anymore, it comes from tailpipes,

  • and the amount that people are driving in your city,

  • your urban VMT, is a good prediction

  • of the asthma problems in your city.

  • And then finally, in terms of driving,

  • there's the issue of the single-largest killer

  • of healthy adults, and one of the largest killers

  • of all people, is car crashes.

  • And we take car crashes for granted.

  • We figure it's a natural risk

  • of being on the road.

  • But in fact, here in America, 12 people

  • out of every 100,000

  • die every year from car crashes.

  • We're pretty safe here.

  • Well, guess what? In England, it's seven per 100,000.

  • It's Japan, it's four per 100,000.

  • Do you know where it's three per 100,000?

  • New York City.

  • San Francisco, the same thing. Portland, the same thing.

  • Oh, so cities make us safer

  • because we're driving less?

  • Tulsa: 14 per 100,000.

  • Orlando: 20 per 100,000.

  • It's not whether you're in the city or not,