Active design

About Active design

Physical activity and healthy eating are among the leading ways to get and stay healthy.

Active design is an applied, evidence-informed approach to improve physical, mental and social health outcomes through the design of the built environment.

To improve health, we can:

  • Increase access to public parks and recreation
  • Create pedestrian plazas, and maintain sidewalks
  • Plant street trees
  • Provide safer cycling infrastructure and secure bicycle storage
  • Make stairways attractive and accessible

Strategies like these can have a measurable effect on people’s ability to safely maintain their physical, mental, and social health.

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Walkability index

This score summarizes features that promote walking, including density of residences, intersections, subway stops, and retail area. Higher scores indicate greater walkability. Neighborhoods range from -4.0 to 9.4, with zero as an approximate NYC average. This indicator excludes some factors that may impact access and walkability, like maintenance, ADA access, neighborhood safety, and street trees.

Walking distance to a park

The percentage of the population who live within walking distance to a park: a quarter-mile or less to entrances of smaller sites, such as sitting areas and playgrounds, and half-mile or less to entrances of larger parks. Increased access to green space and open space can contribute to increased levels of physical activity.

Sidewalk area

Sidewalks are important for commuting, businesses, and physical activity. Greater sidewalk area can contribute to a safer pedestrian environment, support vibrant business districts and can foster social interaction among residents.

Litter basket coverage

Sanitation supports public health by providing clean, healthy public spaces for people to live, work, and get around. Litter baskets, or trash cans, are associated with a decrease in littering. Enclosed, non-wire baskets are generally better than wire baskets.

Unhealthy food access

A neighborhood's ratio of bodegas to supermarkets can indicate whether the environment makes accessing unhealthy food easier for residents, as bodegas are less likely to have healthy food options than supermarkets.

Subway station density

Neighborhoods with greater subway access encourage active transportation, which may increase physical activity and overall health of residents. They also tend to have more foot traffic, which attracts businesses and can foster community.

Walking distance to a subway station

The percentage of population within a quarter-mile of a subway station entrance. When more people have convenient access to the transit system, they're more likely to use it. Subway access encourages active transportation, which improves the health of residents.

Bicycle network coverage

Bike lanes can improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety, physical activity, and sustainable transportation use. An increase in percentage of streets with bike lanes can indicate a safer cycling environment in a neighborhood which may increase overall cycling.

Citi Bike stations

Biking bridges gaps in existing public transportation systems and is a great way to exercise. Neighborhoods with fewer Citi Bike stations have limited access to this beneficial public resource. Neighborhoods with relatively few docks per station may also have limited access to bikes even if they have many stations. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) suggests that there should be 28 stations per square mile and one station every 1000 feet.

Average Citi Bike availability

The average number of Citi Bikes available to rent per each area between 7am-7pm. Biking bridges gaps in existing public transportation systems and is a great way to exercise. Neighborhoods with lower Citi Bike availability have limited access to this beneficial public resource.

Tree canopy cover

Tree canopy coverage is the percent of a neighborhood that is shaded by trees. Tree shade can lower a neighborhood's temperatures, can make it more comfortable and attractive to walk and stay active.

Vegetative cover

Vegetative cover is the land covered by trees, grass, or other plants instead of a hard surface like roads, sidewalks, or buildings. Vegetative cover tends to reduce temperatures in the immediate area and may increase air quality.