Mark Fenton kept the audience involved at the Mass in Motion kickoff breakfast Friday morning, asking what changes can be done.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An enthusiastic Mark Fenton energized local community leaders, residents and others at the Mass in Motion kickoff breakfast that was held at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center Friday morning.
"The conversation is changing, we got to demand it enough." said Fenton, an Olympian race-walker turned consultant for public health, planning, and transportation, as well as an adjunct professor at Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. "If you just sort of back off, you're going to get what the standard is still."
Fenton shared statistics suggesting that not nearly enough adults get enough exercise. He presented the numbers 30, 20 and 365 during his slideshow — adults are supposed to exercise for 30 minutes per day, only 20 percent say they do and 365,000 people per year die because of obesity-related diseases. He also said he predicts that only five to 10 percent actually hit that exercise goal because of the inaccurate nature of telephone polls.
To solve this, Fenton said infrastructure needs to change to encourage more foot and bicycle travel, as well as creating better routes for schoolchildren.
Fenton said many bicycle-friendly initiatives could be implemented. Although he said adjusting Main Street to angled parking was "courageous," Fenton, a former elected official on the Scituate Planning Board, suggested implementing reverse-angled parking (where you drive past the spot and back in facing the street) would make cyclists, and incoming traffic, more visible.
Mayor Richard Alcombright offered opening remarks at the breakfast and presentation.
He said that during a brief drive throughout the
three communties, he noticed a handful of walkers, runners and cyclist along the pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly routes. Fenton believes more people would use these options if certain routes, such as Route 8 in North Adams leading into Adams, went on a "diet" and reduced to two single-car lanes with a shared left-turn lane and two bike lanes from the current four-lane layout.
"Let's make it rewarding, not punishing for the person who opts not to drive everywhere," Fenton said.
Fenton said that although public health officials love the ideas, elected officials are more cautious because of the costs and negative feedback from vocal "CAVE people" — CAVE standing for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. He stressed that everyone in attendance would need to show up and support the officials publicly to help them make these measures.
"If you expect your elected or appointed officials to have the guts to do this stuff, you got to give them some political cover," Fenton said.
Fenton, among others, said children also need to go outside and it's key to make an area reminiscent to how the audience grew up — playing outside for hours on end.
"Growing up in North Adams, our neighborhood was our playground, our street was our playground, the woods around us was our playground, the Cascades were our playground," said Al Bashevkin, director of the coalition. "In fact, our playground was our playground when we had playgrounds back then ... I know that we're living in a different world today than we lived back in the '50s, '60s and '70s.
"But the land is still here, the earth is still around us, and the opportunities exist for us to be able to continue to make our land our playground for ourselves and our children ..."
Amanda Chilson, the North Berkshire Mass in Motiohn coordinator, said the six work plans were listed around the room. They are:
Safe Routes to School
Improving School Nutrition
Healthy Markets (Working with convenience/small stores to promote and offer healthier products)
Food Assistance Sites (Working with pantries and low-income meal programs to establish healthier guidelines)
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