Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Porkies and Paris

We hear more and more frequently the outlandish claim made by the high-density fanatics that high-density is good for our health. Naturally no proof has been provided for this assertion. For me the most memorable performance of this type was the seminar in September featuring Professor Howard Frumkin and Professor Anthony Capon.

SOS member Adrien Krebs writes as follows:

Due to my experience of living in both high and low density cities, I have to disagree with density advocates who argue that higher density promotes physical exercice, thus better physical and mental health.

When I was living in Paris where population density is 20 000 inhabitant per km2, I was doing less exercice. The reason is high density means your building is not by a park, but by another building, which is near another building and another and another...There are less parks in where one can jog, less fields to play ball games. When you are lucky enough to live next to one, it is most likely saturated and overcrowded. Roads are jammed with traffic and polluted so biking becomes impossible in town. The only way to go for a sane and healthy bike ride is to take your car and leave town to go to the forest. Footpaths are cluttered with people and going for a simple run around the block becomes a crowd dodging game. Sometimes you may not even pass as cars will actually park on the footpath since it is the only spot they can find close to their appartment. So even if you have the will to do sports, the only thing higher density will do to your health is build up frustration. Perhaps your best chance at exercising is to belong to a costly private club and exercise indoors.
Australia manages to rank 4th at the olympics with only 20 million people, just behind huge countries such as USA (300 million people), China (more than 1 billion) or Russia (150 million), because sports has become apart of our way of life. One of the reasons is that we have provided ourselves with a sport friendly environment in which to live. Other countries such as India which has cities of huge densities do not seem to be as sporty. I believe there are two main reasons to the amount of physical exercice people do: will and infrastructure. If ever there is a link between density and exercise, it is that density generally provides a less sport-friendly environment with less appropriate infrastructure and ultimately encouraging people to exercise less. If urban congestioners are not kicked out they will have succeeded in creating communities where youngsters do not meet for a rugby game anymore, but for a coffee and cigarette just downstairs from their box-unit.

No comments: