A Walk Through New York – Designed to Move – is this our 1968 moment in creating active cities?

The 1968 moment refers to the peak of tobacco use in the United States, which really happened around 1963, but after 1968 started the gradual decline that has resulted today in the social norm of not smoking. 

I am in New York City on behalf of Kaiser Permanente at the Nike Designed to Move Active Cities Work Session. If you haven’t seen Designed to Move, it’s an an initiative supported by Nike’s Access to Sport team that’s described as a physical activity action agenda, easy to absorb, easy to understand. Take a look.

After day 1, I had the awesome opportunity to walk (which is always awesome regardless), which I did with Jeff Olson, who’s one of the Principles with Alta Planning (@altaplanning), the company that has produced the bike share systems in the city I love, Washington, DC, (Capital Bikeshare @bikeshare) and more recently, New York’s Citibike (@citibikenyc). Citibike only launched in May, 2013, and Jeff told me it has already documented 3,000,000 rides, fast encroaching on Washington, DC’s 4,000,000 to date.

It’s a cultural phenomenon. Fashion Week has designated Citibike Blue as its official color. If you walk anywhere in New York City, Citibike after Citibike will pass you by (hence the blurry photos). We interviewed one rider who said non-chalantly, “it changed my life.”

What I was wondering aloud as we walked, was if this was our 1968 moment. Do we recognize that our cities are changing to support more activity, and that this is the turning point? 

I happened to mention this in this recent blog post, see: I love how our cities are changing to support health for all : Adams Morgan Day, Washington, DC USA | Ted Eytan, MD. My walk on this evening makes me wonder even more. I related to Jeff a few things about my own bikesharing experience that I had forgotten about:

  • My first Capital Bikeshare trip was my first time riding a bicycle in Washington, DC – I had only walked the city for the previous years I lived there. Totally changed my perspective.
  • I was hesitant to take my first few trips alone because I thought I looked silly, that’s how new this “norm” was

Now, of course, I ride all the time (but not as much as I walk). 

I don’t know the answer to the question about whether it is or isn’t our 1968 moment – one other perspective on this is that this is really the “re-integration” of technology back into our lives in a healthy way.

Either way, it looks like something is happening. See, and Google for yourself. Great job, Jeff and Alta Planning (@altaplanning), you quietly or not so quietly transformed us with a brightly colored cultural token that expresses our freedom (to move) – kind of like tobacco, but in a healthy way.

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Ted Eytan, MD