How Your Suburb Can Make You Thinner

Suburbs and spread-out cities around the United States are trying to rebuild their roads and other infrastructure to get residents walking instead of driving, as a long-term strategy to improve their health. Four towns on the forefront of that effort, clockwise from top left: Zebulon, N.C.; Fitchburg, Mass.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Cuba, N.M. | Erich M. Fabricius; Diderot; Alamy Stock Photo

If people can’t be cajoled to walk for its own sake, is there another way to get them moving? In recent years, planners and policymakers have begun to consider this: If suburbs are the problem, maybe suburbs can be re-imagined as the solution. People drive because their neighborhoods encourage it—and sometimes even leave them with no choice. What, then, if their neighborhoods were built to foster walking? With the right layout and development, the notion goes, our suburban towns and sprawling new cities might become havens of human-powered rather than petroleum-fired motion. Along the way, health should soar.

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