一个拉丁裔家庭在公园里，沉浸在谈话悠闲地散步。 即将快的背后，是一个金发碧眼的女人在设计运动装备和耳塞，维持她的力量，步行速度的意图。 造就后方是一名年轻男子与他的赫斯基，两人在阳光的补丁已经从云层后面出现向上凝视。
它错误地认为，没有人在较小的社区散步，除了他们的皮卡车和沃尔玛门口之间。 其实走路是迄今为止在全国各地的小社区更常见比人们想象。 在10,000-50,000的城镇， 所有行程的百分之8.5 徒步制成，仅次于“城市核心”的社区，根据交通部的全国家庭旅行调查美系。 在小城镇2500 10,000来，步行出行的百分之7.2账户 - 比大多数郊区社区高。
亚伯特李在许多方面类似于加里森·凯勒湖Wobegon（仅更加多样化 - 彩色约百分之10人）。 这是一个地方“里的女人都很强......，所有的孩子都高于平均水平。”这与目标符合当地居民在接受2009时，他们采取了社会各界广泛的方法来健身的布局 蓝色区域， 一本畅销书 “国家地理” 研究员丹·巴特纳，其中探讨世界各地的地方，人们活得最长和健康。
他们已经在过去5年都做了些什么同时提供经验和灵感在美国小城镇。 “我们的想法是让健康的选择容易的选择，”巴特纳，其新书说： 在蓝区解决方案 与世界各地的其他社区的成功故事一起记载了艾伯特利的进展。
这似乎已经奏效。 即使在一个灰色的，寒冷的工作日的下午，围绕喷泉湖新5英里的步道吸引更多步行者和比你在明尼苏达州南部的大豆田之间设置一个小镇期待车友。 市区接壤，公园，充满了人们对脚航向法院之间，银行，图书馆，家具店，厨房店，服装店，教堂，学校，餐馆，在一个咖啡馆还有 - 完善草原一家亲触 - 的一名运动的小酒馆，该通告“白菜卷热荤”作为日常特别。
散步已根据传导行人计数过去五年增加了百分之70， 国家活力中心，这延续了最初的十个月的蓝区试点方案后，社区卫生运动一个地方的积极性结束。 “这不是在过去的二十年里实现的，但是在过去的五年里，指出：”埃伦凯尔，组织铅为蓝区项目 - 亚伯特李，最近推出镇上一个新项目。
Smoking has also dropped four percent, and Blue Zones participants collectively lost almost four tons of weight, notes Buettner. Two-thirds of locally operated restaurants and one large supermarket now offer new options for healthy eating. Residents formed about thirty groups to walk or bike together regularly, nearly half of which are still going strong five years later.
“This has become a piece of who we are as a community, an opportunity to become an even better community,” declares Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr.
City Council member Al Brooks, who now walks 2 ½ miles every day, credits the campaign with big improvements in his own health. “When I started four years ago, I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now my cholesterol is lower, my blood pressure is 116/70 and I lost 15 pounds.”
After being launched in Albert Lea, the Blue Zones idea has now been taken to Fort Worth, Texas; Naples, Florida; Southern California; and across the states of Iowa and Hawaii.
“Los Angeles is going to be the next Albert Lea,” Buettner told a cheering crowd at the local high school at the kick-off of a new Blue Zones campaign, launched in partnership with Healthways, a Tennessee-based company focusing on well-being improvement solutions.
Albert Lea’s impressive health gains are paying off in many ways. 早安美国 broadcast live from the shores of Fountain Lake to tell the country what was happening here-- part of a wave of media attention which is valuable to the town’s future prospects, says City Manager Chad Adams.
"And the city’s health insurance premiums will not increase in 2015, instead of the double digit increases of the past few years,” Adams adds--a windfall for taxpayers, which he attributes to the community’s awareness of wellness, physical activity and the health benefits of strong social connections.
The ambitious project to make downtown more walkable figures prominently in Albert Lea’s economic strategies. “People who were skeptical are starting to see the fruit now that it’s done” says Adams. “Owners are investing in improving their buildings, and we’re talking to major prospects about moving downtown in the next year.”
Adams stresses that a lively, walkable community is key to attracting businesses as well as the families and young people that Albert Lea needs to thrive in decades to come. “It’s paramount that we grow our population and our tax base.”
Briana Czer, a young bank manager who moved here a year ago, thinks this strategy is working. “I like how walkable Albert Lea is. When people walk more, they socialize more. That helps connect everyone and makes me feel more part of the community, ” she says.
Albert Lea’s embrace of healthy living convinced Adams himself to move his young family here from an affluent Minneapolis suburb four years ago, choosing the city manager post here over several other job opportunities. “My kids love it here. There is so much to do-- riding bikes, walking on the trails, recreational opportunities in the parks and on the lakes, hanging out in the historic downtown. I was also impressed by the community-wide collaborative effort on the Blue Zones initiative to make positive change for the well-being on the community.”
How It Happened
So how exactly did Albert Lea get more people back on their feet walking, especially in a rural region where driving is deeply embedded in the fabric of everyday life?
It was a combination of: 1) creating a public education campaign about the health advantages of physical activity; 2) organizing people into informal social groups to walk regularly; and 3) making the city’s streets and parks more safe and appealing for pedestrians. Here are some of the accomplishments:
---A community-wide focus on physical activity--enlisting civic organizations, businesses, schools, public agencies, the media and citizens--offered continual reinforcement for people to get out and walk. “It has reconnected our community in a way that I never thought possible,” notes Randy Kehr, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce (and husband of Ellen Kehr). “Sociability is as important to health as exercise and eating.”
---Walking groups, which serve as an incentive to get off the sofa, even when you feel lazy or it’s freezing outside. This makes physical activity a social occasion to look forward to. In Albert Lea, walking groups are generally 4-10 people committed to walking together 3-7 times a week. Dennis Dieser, executive director of the local YMCA, notes there’s a group that gets together evenings to walk the grounds at a local school. “Ten times around the building is a mile,” he says, “and you see more and more people joining.”
---Downtown was made more walkable by widening sidewalks, eliminating unnecessary traffic lanes, restoring diagonal parking, replacing some stoplights with stop signs, and “bumping out” sidewalks into the intersection, which shortens the crossing distance on busy streets. Almost immediately the 112 Broadway restaurant sprouted a sidewalk café. “It makes downtown feel more like a downtown,” says Public Works Director Steve Jahnke. “All the improvements around town makes us feel more like a community-- a sense of pride, more opportunities to talk to people, to do things.”
---Sidewalks were added to six-and-a-half miles of city streets in strategic locations near schools, senior centers and businesses.
---A bikeway along Front Street now connects a state park to downtown and a commercial street on the city’s west side. Bicycling has risen 74 percent on the street, according to the National Vitality Project’s count. Eventually, the bike lane will connect two state trails, enabling people to bike or walk 65 miles unhindered by vehicle traffic.
---A number of neighborhoods created walking school buses so kids and parents could get exercise on the way to school. It’s works just like a school bus, except without the bus. A parent picks up kids at their homes and takes them safely to school on foot.
---A 5-mile walking continuous path was built around Fountain Lake, and the park’s boathouse was transformed into a full-fledged recreation center where kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, x-country skis and snowshoes can be rented.
---A new Complete Streets ordinance requires that all road users be considered in transportation planning decisions, not just cars and trucks. This means any new subdivisions must be built with sidewalks, and reconstruction projects must take in account the pedestrians’ needs.
---Some companies have charted 15-minute and 30-minute walks in and around their workplaces, so employees can make the most of breaks and lunchtime.
---The city is considering converting another downtown section of South Broadway from four to three lanes to make it safer.
---A major walkable mixed-use development on the site of a former meatpacking plant close to downtown is also being planned to steer more development to the heart of the city.
Small Is Advantageous
"Small towns can reinvent themselves as places faster than big towns,” explained Dan Burden--one of America’s foremost authorities on walkable communities--to a roomful of city, county and state officials at Albert Lea’s City Hall working on further improvements for the town.
Former Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the State of Florida, Burden is the Johnny Appleseed of urban vitality, who has brought ideas for walkability and livability to over 3500 North American communities in the past 18 years. He helped Albert Lea citizens map out their original healthy cities strategies in 2009 as part of the Blue Zones team, and has now returned for the new phase of work as the organization’s Director of Innovation.
“When I first came into Albert Lea, I’ll be honest, it looked like the downtown was closed,” he admitted to the local officials. “There were businesses but there was no life in the streets. That’s changed now. Albert Lea, I am proud of you.”
Quality of life and streetlife are important elements for attracting and holding onto the business leaders and employees the town needs to succeed, Burden said, especially young people, who are much less attached to owning cars than previous generations. Burden asked, “What would Millennials rather give up--their cars or their cell phones…” The audience shouted out “cars” before he could finish his sentence.
But young people aren’t the only ones who feel there is more to life than driving.
“All of us are in our cars more than we like, that’s universal,” Burden said. “We all want to have other options, biking, walking, living closer to the places we want to be.”
“Plus,” he added, “the silver tsunami--vast numbers of aging baby boomers--is coming!”
He said that men outlive their ability to drive by seven years on average, and women by 10. But more transportation choices is not the only stake older people have in creating more walkable communities, Burden added. “We also want to have our grandchildren nearby, which means we need to make sure our towns are appealing to younger people.”
周杰伦Walljasper写，讲，编辑和咨询有关创建更强大，更重要的社区。 他是作家 The Great Neighborhood Book 和 All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. He is also a contributor to 可持续的幸福：生活简朴，生活得很好，发挥影响力, from YES! Magazine. His website: JayWalljasper.com
The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Placemaking
by Jay Walljasper.