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CSS and Active Living by Design

Current trends indicate a strong association between our transportation infra­structure, the level of routine physical activity among Americans, and their health. Diverse transportation choices can help improve public health by promoting active living, a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines. Active Living by Design promotes environments that offer choices for integrating physical activity into daily life. Transportation determines not only how people move from place to place, but also the fundamental character of communities and the choices and opportunities people are provided.

– Active Living by Design


The CSS approach can improve public health by leading to the creation of transportation systems that facilitate a meaningful amount of physical activity simply by carrying out routine trips. By using CSS in the planning and design process, streets and street networks can be created that offer more safe multi-modal options, which lead to a greater number of trips that are taken by foot, bicycle, or transit. Conventional approaches to transportation planning and design have the opposite effect – they tend to be detrimental to public health by encouraging, or even forcing, auto-dependency, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle, or physical danger for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. 

Resources on CSS and Active Transportation

Note: for resources on CSS and pedestrian and bicycle design issues, see the pedestrian and bicycle pages in the design section of the website.



Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Community Design and Transportation Policies: New Ways to Promote Physical Activity
Physical inactivity exacts an enormous public health toll. Lack of physical activity is thought to be a primary factor in more than 200,000 deaths per year in the United States, a total equivalent to 25% of all chronic disease deaths and 10% of all deaths. Thus, for the US population, in which 29% of adults are sedentary and more than 50% are overweight, becoming moderately active can provide a meaningful health benefit. Inactivity's negative effects have generated interest in collaboration between public health, city planning, and transportation organizations.
-- Richard E. Killingsworth, MPH, CHES; Thomas L. Schmid, PhD
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Active Transportation and Physical Activity: Opportunities for Collaboration on Transportation and Public Health Research
Physically inactive lifestyles are a major public health challenge, and research in the transportation field on influences on the choice to walk and bike may provide guidance toward solutions. In the interests of promoting effective collaboration among the transportation, planning, and health fields, the current paper was written to fulfill three purposes. The first purpose was to summarize the transportation and planning studies on the relation between community design and non-motorized ("active") transport and to interpret these studies from a health perspective. The second purpose was to summarize studies from the health literature that examine the relation between physical environmental variables and leisure-time physical activity that have relevance for transportation research. The third purpose was to promote more collaboration among transportation, planning, and health investigators by identifying opportunities for transdisciplinary research.
-- James F. Sallis, Lawrence D. Frank, Brian E. Saelens, M. Katherine Kraft
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Increasing Physical Activity through Neighborhood Design: A Guide for Public Health Practitioners
In healthy communities - not just in the movies - walking and bicycling are a normal part of daily life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call these kinds of places Active Community Environments (ACEs). They recognize that providing for active living through community design is a health issue.

This guide tells you how to help create places for people to walk and bicycle. This doesn't just mean special trails, though those might certainly be an important element of an overall plan. Creating an active community environment means taking a look at the broader scope of where there are - and aren't - opportunities to safely walk and bicycle. It involves land use design, retrofitting the transportation infrastructure, funding and much more.
-- National Center for Bicycling & Walking
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Kids Walk to School: A Guide to Promote Walking to School
Being active and exploring their surroundings comes naturally to children. Unfortunately, young people today are not as free to walk and play outdoors because our neighborhoods are no longer kid-friendly. Many of our communities have been designed to be convenient for cars, not for children.

KidsWalk-to-School is a program that aims to get children to walk and bicycle to and from school in groups accompanied by adults. This gives kids a chance to be more physically active, to practice safe pedestrian skills, and to learn more about their environment. At the same time, KidsWalk-to-School encourages people to change their neighborhoods for the better, working together, to make walking a safe and enjoyable part of everyone’s lives.
-- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Route 9 Reconstruction
New York, NY
After more than 20 years of planning and design efforts, the reconstruction of what was formerly known as the West Side Highway in Manhattan finally began. A proposal originally conceived in the early 1970s for the construction of a six-to-eight lane interstate freeway facility known as Westway, which would have been partly elevated and partly depressed below grade, was withdrawn in 1985. In 1987, the city of New York and New York State established a joint West Side Task Force in an attempt to reach a consensus on what action should be taken to replace the deficient interim highway, and the alternative ultimately was a basic six-lane urban boulevard with three travel lanes provided on either side of a raised, landscaped median. This project shows how a collaborative, multidisciplinary planning and design process, incorporating a high level of continuous public involvement, can result in the creation of a world-class street design and also how detailed investigations of travel demand and traffic movement patterns can result in a dramatic change in the scale of the proposed improvement.
East Main Street Reconstruction
Westminster, MD
After more than a year of planning and design, the Maryland State Highway Administration's consultants completed their drawings for Westminster, Maryland's, East Main Street's revitalization. However, the administration and public balked at the plan which called for the removal of 42 100-year-old trees. MD DOT promptly appointed a task force to develop a new plan that would save Main Street's trees, widen sidewalks and improve the efficiency of traffic flow. Through this project, the city and State learned that citizen involvement at the beginning saves time and can result in a project that preserves the heritage of the community and pleases the community members themselves.

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