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  • Thu October 06 2016
  • Posted Oct 6, 2016

FRANKLIN, Tenn.,Oct. 6, 2016/PRNewswire/ --In the 1920s Herbert Hoover called for a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, and the subsequent build of the nation's infrastructure paid little heed to the needs of pedestrians or cyclists. Today, Americans seem to be looking for a return to a simpler life. According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly 80 percent of the home-buying public want to live in a walkable community. Yet real estate brokerage Redfinreports that only 14 percent of neighborhoods qualify. Now, Blue Zones Project® communities throughout the country are reversing that trend.

Blue Zones Project, a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative, is helping cities redesign infrastructure in a way that meets that demand and gets people out of their cars and onto their feet. Incorporating principles from the world's Blue Zones® areas, where people live longer lives with less chronic disease, Blue Zones Project works with communities to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. That means evaluating and sometimes redesigning a community's streets and built environment, otherwise known as the human-made places where people live, work, and play.

That's where Dan Burden comes in. Named by Time Magazine in 2011 as "one of the six most important civic innovators in the world," Burden is an international walkability expert who works directly with Blue Zones Project communities to reshape their built environment. He helps civic leaders rethink the design and construction of streets and other areas where people walk, drive, and ride their bikes.

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While Iowa is often thought of as a rural state, Blue Zones Project is helping communities change that perception by leading the way on urban policies to promote active transportation. Fifteen certified Blue Zones Communities have passed Complete Streets policies, boasting more than half of the policies adopted statewide. They've redesigned major thoroughfares and reimagined downtown areas to encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Three of those communities —Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and Muscatine— landed a prestigious spot on Smart Growth America's list of the nation's top 15 Complete Streets policies passed in 2013.

Brought to Iowa by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Zones Project played a key role in that effort. Since 2012, participating cities have realized benefits for public safety, community health, and economic development. In cities like Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Muscatine, the changes have made it easier for residents to get around without a vehicle, improved safety for children walking to school, reduced accidents, and transformed city centers. Other Iowa communities taking on the challenge include Algona, Cedar Falls, Fairfield, Harlan, Iowa City, Mason City, Oskaloosa, Sioux City, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Waterloo, and Woodbine.

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